Part 4 out of 8
Aghast at her own depravity, she began to sob. Jed tried to
comfort her and succeeded, after a fashion, at least she stopped
crying, although she was silent most of the way home. And Jed
himself was silent also. He shared her feeling of guilt. He felt
that he had been told something which neither he nor any outsider
should have heard, and his sensitive spirit found little
consolation in the fact that the hearing of it had come through no
fault of his. Besides, he was not so sure that he had been
faultless. He had permitted the child's disclosures to go on when,
perhaps, he should have stopped them. By the time the "Araminta's"
nose slid up on the sloping beach at the foot of the bluff before
the Winslow place she held two conscience-stricken culprits instead
And if Ruth Armstrong slept but little that night, as her daughter
said had been the case the night before, she was not the only
wakeful person in that part of Orham. She would have been
surprised if she had known that her eccentric neighbor and landlord
was also lying awake and that his thoughts were of her and her
trouble. For Jed, although he had heard but the barest fragment of
the story of "Uncle Charlie," a mere hint dropped from the lips of
a child who did not understand the meaning of what she said, had
heard enough to make plain to him that the secret which the young
widow was hiding from the world was a secret involving sorrow and
heartbreak for herself and shame and disgrace for others. The
details he did not know, nor did he wish to know them; he was
entirely devoid of that sort of curiosity. Possession of the
little knowledge which had been given him, or, rather, had been
thrust upon him, and which Gabe Bearse would have considered a
gossip treasure trove, a promise of greater treasures to be
diligently mined, to Jed was a miserable, culpable thing, like the
custody of stolen property. He felt wicked and mean, as if he had
been caught peeping under a window shade.
That night came a sudden shift in the weather and when morning
broke the sky was gray and overcast and the wind blew raw and
penetrating from the northeast. Jed, at work in his stock room
sorting a variegated shipment of mills and vanes which were to go
to a winter resort on the west coast of Florida, was, as he might
have expressed it, down at the mouth. He still felt the sense of
guilt of the night before, but with it he felt a redoubled
realization of his own incompetence. When he had surmised his
neighbor and tenant to be in trouble he had felt a strong desire to
help her; now that surmise had changed to certainty his desire to
help was stronger than ever. He pitied her from the bottom of his
heart; she seemed so alone in the world and so young. She needed a
sympathetic counselor and advisor. But he could not advise or help
because neither he nor any one else in Orham was supposed to know
of her trouble and its nature. Even if she knew that he knew,
would she accept the counsel of Shavings Winslow? Hardly! No
sensible person would. How the townsfolk would laugh if they knew
he had even so much as dreamed of offering it.
He was too downcast even to sing one of his lugubrious hymns or to
whistle. Instead he looked at the letter pinned on a beam beside
him and dragged from the various piles one half-dozen crow vanes,
one half-dozen gull vanes, one dozen medium-sized mills, one dozen
small mills, three sailors, etc., etc., as set forth upon that
order. One of the crows fell to the floor and he accidently
stepped upon it and snapped its head off. He was gazing solemnly
down at the wreck when the door behind him opened and a strong
blast of damp, cold wind blew in. He turned and found that Mrs.
Armstrong had opened the door. She entered and closed it behind
"Good morning," she said.
Jed was surprised to see her at such an early hour; also just at
that time her sudden appearance was like a sort of miracle, as if
the thoughts in his brain had taken shape, had materialized. For a
moment he could not regain presence of mind sufficient to return
her greeting. Then, noticing the broken vane on the floor, she
"Oh, you have had an accident. Isn't that too bad! When did it
He looked down at the decapitated crow and touched one of the
pieces with the toe of his boot.
"Just this minute," he answered. "I stepped on it and away she
went. Did a pretty neat, clean job, didn't I? . . . Um-hm. . . .
I wonder if anybody stepped on MY head 'twould break like that.
Probably not; the wood in it is too green, I cal'late."
She smiled, but she made no comment on this characteristic bit of
speculation. Instead she asked: "Mr. Winslow, are you very busy
this morning? Is your work too important to spare me just a few
Jed looked surprised; he smiled his one-sided smile.
"No, ma'am," he drawled. "I've been pretty busy but 'twan't about
anything important. I presume likely," he added, "there ain't
anybody in Ostable County that can be so busy as I can be doin'
"And you can spare a few minutes? I--I want to talk to you very
much. I won't be long, really."
He regarded her intently. Then he walked toward the door leading
to the little workroom. "Come right in here, ma'am," he said,
gravely; adding, after they had entered the other apartment, "Take
that chair. I'll sit over here on the box."
He pulled forward the box and turned to find her still standing.
"Do sit down," he urged. "That chair ain't very comfortable, I
know. Perhaps I'd better get you another one from my sittin'-room
He was on his way to carry out the suggestion, but she interrupted
him. "Oh, no," she said. "This one will be perfectly comfortable,
I'm sure, only--"
"Yes? Is there somethin' the matter with it?"
"Not the matter with it, exactly, but it seems to be--occupied."
Jed stepped forward and peered over the workbench at the chair.
Its seat was piled high with small pasteboard boxes containing
hardware-screws, tacks and metal washers--which he used in his mill
"Sho!" he exclaimed. "Hum! Does seem to be taken, as you say. I
recollect now; a lot of that stuff came in by express day before
yesterday afternoon and I piled it up there while I was unpackin'
it. Here!" apparently addressing the hardware, "you get out of
that. That seat's reserved."
He stretched a long arm over the workbench, seized the chair by the
back and tipped it forward. The pasteboard boxes went to the floor
in a clattering rush. One containing washers broke open and the
little metal rings rolled everywhere. Mr. Winslow did not seem to
"There!" he exclaimed, with evident satisfaction; "sit right down,
The lady sat as requested, her feet amid the hardware boxes and her
hands upon the bench before her. She was evidently very nervous,
for her fingers gripped each other tightly. And, when she next
spoke, she did not look at her companion.
"Mr. Winslow," she began, "I--I believe--that is, Babbie tells me
that--that last evening, when you and she were on your way back
here in the boat, she said something--she told you something
concerning our--my--family affairs which--which--"
She faltered, seeming to find it hard to continue. Jed did not
wait. He was by this time at least as nervous as she was and
considerably more distressed and embarrassed. He rose from the box
and extended a protesting hand.
"Now, now, ma'am," he begged. "Now, Mrs. Armstrong, please--please
don't say any more. It ain't necessary, honest it ain't. She--
she--that child she didn't tell me much of anything anyhow, and she
didn't mean to tell that. And if you knew how ashamed and--and
mean I've felt ever since to think I let myself hear that much! I
hope--I do hope you don't think I tried to get her to tell me
anything. I do hope you don't think that."
His agitation was so acute and so obvious that she looked at him in
wonder for a moment. Then she hastened to reassure him.
"Don't distress yourself, Mr. Winslow," she said, smiling sadly.
"I haven't known you very long but I have already learned enough
about you to know that you are an honorable man. If I did not know
that I shouldn't be here now. It is true that I did not mean for
you or any one here in Orham to learn of my--of our trouble, and if
Babbie had not told you so much I probably should never have spoken
to you about it. The poor child's conscience troubled her so last
evening that she came crying to me and confessed, and it is because
I gathered from her that she had told enough to make you at least
guess the truth that I am here now. I prefer that you should hear
the story just as it is from me, rather than imagine something
which might be worse. Don't you see?"
Jed saw, but he was still very much perturbed.
"Now, now, Mrs. Armstrong," he begged, "don't tell me anything,
please don't. I laid awake about all night thinkin' what I'd ought
to do, whether I'd ought to tell you what Babbie said, or just not
trouble you at all and try to forget I ever heard it. That's what
I decided finally, to forget it; and I will--I vow and declare I
will! Don't you tell me anything, and let me forget this. Now
But she shook her head. "Things like that are not so easily
forgotten," she said; "even when one tries as hard to forget as I
am sure you would, Mr. Winslow. No, I want to tell you; I really
do. Please don't say any more. Let me go on. . . . Oh," with a
sudden burst of feeling "can't you see that I must talk with
Her clasped fingers tightened and the tears sprang to her eyes.
Poor Jed's distress was greater than ever.
"Now--now, Mrs. Armstrong," he stammered, "all I meant to say was
that you mustn't feel you've got to tell me. Course if you want
to, that's different altogether. What I'm tryin' to say," he
added, with a desperate attempt to make his meaning perfectly
clear, "is not to pay any attention to ME at all but do just what
YOU want to, that's all."
Even on the verge of tears as she was, she could not forbear
smiling a little at this proclamation of complete self-effacement.
"I fear I must pay some attention to you," she said, "if I am to
confide in you and--and perhaps ask your help, your advice,
afterwards. I have reached a point when I must ask some one's
advice; I have thought myself into a maze and I don't know what to
do--I don't know WHAT to do. I have no near relatives, no friends
here in Orham--"
Jed held up a protesting hand.
"Excuse me, Mrs. Armstrong," he stammered; "I don't know as you
recollect, probably it might not have meant as much to you as it
did to me; but a spell ago you said somethin' about countin' me as
"I know I did. And I meant it. You have been very kind, and
Barbara is so fond of you. . . . Well, perhaps you can advise me,
at least you can suggest--or--or--help me to think. Will you?"
Jed passed his hand across his chin. It was obvious that her
asking his counsel was simply a last resort, a desperate, forlorn
hope. She had no real confidence in his ability to help. He would
have been the last to blame her for this; her estimate of his
capabilities was like his own, that was all.
"W-e-e-ll," he observed, slowly, "as to givin' my advice, when a
man's asked to give away somethin' that's worth nothin' the least
he can do is say yes and try to look generous, I cal'late. If I
can advise you any, why, I'll feel proud, of course."
"Thank you. Mr. Winslow, for the past two years or more I have
been in great trouble. I have a brother--but you knew that; Babbie
"Um-hm. The one she calls 'Uncle Charlie'?"
"Yes. He is--he is serving his sentence in the Connecticut State
Jed leaned back upon the box. His head struck smartly against the
edge of the bandsaw bench, but he did not seem to be aware of the
"My Lord above!" he gasped.
"Yes, it is true. Surely you must have guessed something of that
sort, after Babbie's story of the policemen."
"I--I--well, I did sort of--of presume likely he must have got into
some sort of--of difficulty, but I never thought 'twas bad as
that. . . . Dear me! . . . Dear me!"
"My brother is younger than I; he is scarcely twenty-three years
old. He and I are orphans. Our home was in Wisconsin. Father was
killed in a railway accident and Mother and my brother Charles and
I were left with very little money. We were in a university town
and Mother took a few students as lodgers. Doctor Armstrong was
one; I met him there, and before he left the medical college we
were engaged to be married. Charlie was only a boy then, of
course. Mother died three years later. Meanwhile Seymour--Doctor
Armstrong--had located in Middleford, Connecticut, and was
practicing medicine there. He came on, we were married, and I
returned to Middleford with him. We had been married but a few
years when he died--of pneumonia. That was the year after Babbie
was born. Charles remained in Wisconsin, boarding with a cousin of
Mother's, and, after he graduated from high school, entered one of
the banks in the town. He was very successful there and the bank
people liked him. After Seymour--my husband--died, he came East to
see me at Middleford. One of Doctor Armstrong's patients, a bond
broker in New Haven, took a fancy to him, or we thought he did, and
offered him a position. He accepted, gave up his place at the bank
in Wisconsin, and took charge of this man's Middleford office,
making his home with Babbie and me. He was young, too young I
think now, to have such a responsible position, but every one said
he had a remarkably keen business mind and that his future was
certain to be brilliant. And then--"
She paused. It was evident that the hard part of her story was
coming. After a moment she went on.
"Charlie was popular with the young people there in Middleford. He
was always a favorite, at home, at school, everywhere. Mother
idolized him while she lived, so did I, so did Babbie. He was fond
of society and the set he was friendly with was made up, for the
most part, of older men with much more money than he. He was
proud, he would not accept favors without repaying them, he liked a
good time, perhaps he was a little fast; not dissipated--I should
have known if he were that--but--careless--and what you men call a
'good fellow.' At any rate, he--"
Again she paused. Jed, sitting on the box, clasping his knee
between his hands, waited anxiously for her to continue.
"Of course you can guess what happened," she said, sadly, after a
moment. "It was the old story, that is all. Charlie was living
beyond his means, got into debt and speculated in stocks, hoping to
make money enough to pay those debts. The stocks went down and--
and--well, he took money belonging to his employer to protect his
She waited, perhaps expecting her companion to make some comment.
He did not and again she spoke.
"I know he meant only to borrow it," she declared. "I KNOW it. He
isn't bad, Mr. Winslow; I know him better than any one and he ISN'T
bad. If he had only come to me when he got into the trouble!
If he had only confided in me! But he was proud and--and he
didn't. . . . Well, I won't tell you how his--his fault was
discovered; it would take a long time and it isn't worth while.
They arrested him, he was tried and--and sent to prison for two
For the first time since she began her story Jed uttered a word.
"Sho!" he exclaimed. "Sho, sho! Dear me! The poor young feller!"
She looked up at him quickly. "Thank you," she said, gratefully.
"Yes, he was sent to prison. He was calm and resigned and very
brave about it, but to me it was a dreadful shock. You see, he had
taken so little money, not much over two thousand dollars. We
could have borrowed it, I'm sure; he and I could have worked out
the debt together. We could have done it; I would have worked at
anything, no matter how hard, rather than have my brother branded
all his life with the disgrace of having been in prison. But the
man for whom he had worked was furiously angry at what he called
Charlie's ingratitude; he would teach the young thief a lesson, he
said. Our lawyer went to him; I went to him and begged him not to
press the case. Of course Charlie didn't know of my going; he
never would have permitted it if he had. But I went and begged and
pleaded. It did no good. Why, even the judge at the trial, when
he charged the jury, spoke of the defendant's youth and previous
good character. . . ."
She covered her eyes with her hand. Poor Jed's face was a picture
"Now--now, Mrs. Armstrong," he urged, "don't, please don't. I--I
wouldn't tell me any more about it, if I was you. Of course I'm--
I'm proud to think you believed I was worth while tellin' it to and
all that, but--you mustn't. You'll make yourself sick, you know.
Just don't tell any more, please."
She took her hand away and looked at him bravely.
"There isn't any more to tell," she said. "I have told you this
because I realized that Barbara had told you enough to make you
imagine everything that was bad concerning my brother. And he is
not bad, Mr. Winslow. He did a wrong thing, but I know--I KNOW he
did not mean deliberately to steal. If that man he worked for had
been--if he had been-- But there, he was what he was. He said
thieves should be punished, and if they were punished when they
were young, so much the better, because it might be a warning and
keep them honest as they grew older. He told me that, Mr. Winslow,
when I pleaded with him not to make Charles' disgrace public and
not to wreck the boy's life. That was what he told me then. And
they say," she added, bitterly, "that he prides himself upon being
a staunch supporter of the church."
Jed let go of his knee with one hand in order to rub his chin.
"I have queer notions, I cal'late," he drawled. "If they wasn't
queer they wouldn't be mine, I suppose. If I was--er--as you might
say, first mate of all creation I'd put some church folks in jail
and a good many jail folks in church. Seems's if the swap would be
a help to both sides. . . . I--I hope you don't think I'm--er--
unfeelin', jokin', when you're in such worry and trouble," he
added, anxiously. "I didn't mean it."
His anxiety was wasted. She had heard neither his first remark nor
the apology for it. Her thoughts had been far from the windmill
shop and its proprietor. Now, apparently awakening to present
realities, she rose and turned toward the door.
"That was all," she said, wearily. "You know the whole truth now,
Mr. Winslow. Of course you will not speak of it to any one else."
Then, noticing the hurt look upon his face, she added, "Forgive me.
I know you will not. If I had not known it I should not have
confided in you. Thank you for listening so patiently."
She was going, but he touched her arm.
"Excuse me, Mrs. Armstrong," he faltered, "but--but wasn't there
somethin' else? Somethin' you wanted to ask my advice about--or--
She smiled faintly. "Yes, there was," she admitted. "But I don't
know that it is worth while troubling you, after all. It is not
likely that you can help me. I don't see how any one can."
"Probably you're right. I--I ain't liable to be much help to
anybody. But I'm awful willin' to try. And sometimes, you know--
sometimes surprisin' things happen. 'Twas a--a mouse, or a ground
mole, wasn't it, that helped the lion in the story book out of the
scrape? . . . Not that I don't look more like a--er--giraffe than
I do like a mouse," he added.
Mrs. Armstrong turned and looked at him once more. "You're very
kind," she said. "And I know you mean what you say. . . . Why,
yes, I'll tell you the rest. Perhaps," with the slight smile, "you
CAN advise me, Mr. Winslow. You see--well, you see, my brother
will be freed very shortly. I have received word that he is to be
pardoned, his sentence is to be shortened because of what they call
his good conduct. He will be free--and then? What shall he do
then? What shall we all do? That is my problem."
She went on to explain. This was the situation: Her own income
was barely sufficient for Barbara and herself to live, in the
frugal way they were living, in a country town like Orham. That
was why she had decided to remain there. No one in the village
knew her story or the story of her brother's disgrace. But now,
almost any day, her brother might be discharged from prison. He
would be without employment and without a home. She would so
gladly offer him a home with her--they could manage to live, to
exist in some way, she said--but she knew he would not be content
to have her support him. There was no chance of employment in
Orham; he would therefore be forced to go elsewhere, to go
wandering about looking for work. And that she could not bear to
"You see," she said, "I--I feel as if I were the only helper and--
well--guardian the poor boy has. I can imagine," smiling wanly,
"how he would scorn the idea of his needing a guardian, but I feel
as if it were my duty to be with him, to stand by him when every
one else has deserted him. Besides," after an instant's
hesitation, "I feel--I suppose it is unreasonable, but I feel as if
I had neglected my duty before; as if perhaps I had not watched him
as carefully as I should, or encouraged him to confide in me; I
can't help feeling that perhaps if I had been more careful in this
way the dreadful thing might not have happened. . . . Oh," she
added, turning away again, "I don't know why I am telling all these
things to you, I'm sure. They can't interest you much, and the
telling isn't likely to profit either of us greatly. But I am so
alone, and I have brooded over my troubles so much. As I said I
have felt as if I must talk with some one. But there--good
morning, Mr. Winslow."
"Just a minute, please, Mrs. Armstrong; just a minute. Hasn't your
brother got any friends in Middleford who could help him get some
work--a job--you know what I mean? Seems as if he must have, or
you must have."
"Oh, we have, I suppose. We had some good friends there, as well
as others whom we thought were friends. But--but I think we both
had rather die than go back there; I am sure I should. Think what
it would mean to both of us."
Jed understood. She might have been surprised to realize how
clearly he understood. She was proud, and it was plain to see that
she had been very proud of her brother. And Middleford had been
her home where she and her husband had spent their few precious
years together, where her child was born, where, after her brother
came, she had watched his rise to success and the apparent
assurance of a brilliant future. She had begun to be happy once
more. Then came the crash, and shame and disgrace instead of pride
and confidence. Jed's imagination, the imagination which was quite
beyond the comprehension of those who called him the town crank,
grasped it all--or, at least, all its essentials. He nodded
"I see," he said. "Yes, yes, I see. . . . Hum."
"Of course, any one must see. And to go away, to some city or town
where we are not known--where could we go? What should we live on?
And yet we can't stay here; there is nothing for Charles to do."
"Um. . . . He was a--what did you say his trade was?"
"He was a bond broker, a kind of banker."
"Eh? . . . A kind of banker. . . . Sho! Did he work in a bank?"
"Why, yes, I told you he did, in Wisconsin, where he and I used to
"Hum. . . . Pretty smart at it, too, seems to me you said he was?"
"Yes, very capable indeed."
"I want to know. . . . Hum. . . . Sho!"
He muttered one or two more disjointed exclamations and then ceased
to speak altogether, staring abstractedly at a crack in the floor.
All at once he began to hum a hymn. Mrs. Armstrong, whose nerves
were close to the breaking point, lost patience.
"Good morning, Mr. Winslow," she said, and opened the door to the
outer shop. This time Jed did not detain her. Instead he stared
dreamily at the floor, apparently quite unconscious of her or his
"Eh?" he drawled. "Oh, yes, good mornin',--good mornin'. . . .
Hum. . . .
'There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins,
And sinners plunged de de de de
De de di dew dum de.'"
His visitor closed the door. Jed still sat there gazing at vacancy
and droning, dolefully.
For nearly an hour he sat there, scarcely changing his position,
and only varying his musical program by whistling hymns instead of
singing them. Once, hearing a step in the yard, he looked through
the window and saw Gabriel Bearse walking toward the gate from the
direction of the shop door instead of in the opposite direction.
Evidently he had at first intended to call and then had changed his
mind. Mr. Winslow was duly grateful to whoever or whatever had
inspired the change. He had no desire to receive a visit from
"Gab" Bearse, at this time least of all.
Later on he heard another step, and, again glancing through the
window, saw Seth Wingate, the vegetable and fruit peddler, walking
from the door to the gate, just as Mr. Bearse had done. Apparently
Seth had changed his mind also. Jed thought this rather odd, but
again he was grateful. He was thinking hard and was quite willing
not to be disturbed.
But the disturbing came ten minutes after Mr. Wingate's departure
and came in the nature of a very distinct disturbance. There was a
series of thunderous knocks on the front door, that door was thrown
violently open, and, before the startled maker of mills could do
much more than rise to his feet, the door to the workroom was
pulled open also. Captain Hunniwell's bulk filled the opening.
Captain Sam was red-faced and seemed excited.
"Well, by the gracious king," he roared, "you're here, anyhow!
What else is the matter with you?"
Jed, who, after recognizing his visitor, had seated himself once
more, looked up and nodded.
"Hello, Sam," he observed. "Say, I was just thinkin' about you.
That's kind of funny, ain't it?"
"Funny! Just thinkin' about me! Well, I've been thinkin' about
you, I tell you that: Have you been in this shop all the forenoon?"
"Eh? . . . Why, yes. . . . Sartin. . . . I've been right here."
"You HAVE? Gracious king! Then why in the Old Harry have you got
that sign nailed on your front door out here tellin' all hands
you're out for the day and for 'em to ask for you up at Abijah
Jed looked much surprised. His hand moved slowly across his chin.
"Sho!" he drawled. "Sho! Has that sign been hangin' there all
"Don't ask me. I guess it has from what I've heard. Anyhow it's
there now. And WHAT'S it there for? That's what I want to know."
Jed's face was very solemn, but there was a faint twinkle in his
eye. "That explains about Seth Wingate," he mused. "Yes, and Gab
Bearse too. . . . Hum. . . . The Lord was better to me than I
deserved. They say He takes care of children and drunken men and--
er--the critters that most folks think belong to my lodge. . . .
Hum. . . . To think I forgot to take that sign down! Sho!"
"Forgot to take it down! What in everlastin' blazes did you ever
put it up for?"
Jed explained why the placard had been prepared and affixed to the
door. "I only meant it for yesterday, though," he added. "I'd
intended takin' it down this mornin'."
Captain Sam put back his head and laughed until the shop echoed.
"Ho, ho, ho!" he roared. "And you mean to tell me that you put it
up there because you was goin' cruisin' to the aviation camp and
you didn't want callers disturbin' Mrs. Armstrong?"
His friend nodded. "Um-hm," he admitted. "I sent 'em to 'Bije's
because he was as far off as anybody I could think of. Pretty good
idea, wasn't it?"
The captain grinned. "Great!" he declared. "Fine! Wonderful!
You wait till 'Bije comes to tell you how fine 'twas. He's in bed,
laid up with neuralgia, and Emma J., his wife, says that every hour
or less yesterday there was somebody bangin' at their door asking
about you. Every time they banged she says that 'Bije, his nerves
bein' on edge the way they are, would pretty nigh jump the quilts
up to the ceilin' and himself along with 'em. And his remarks got
more lit up every jump. About five o'clock when somebody came
poundin' he let out a roar you could hear a mile. 'Tell 'em
Shavin's Winslow's gone to the devil,' he bellowed, 'and that I say
they can go there too.' And then Emma J. opened the door and
'twan't anybody askin' about you at all; 'twas the Baptist minister
come callin'. I was drivin' past there just now and Emma J. came
out to tell me about it. She wanted to know if you'd gone clear
crazy instead of part way. I told her I didn't know, but I'd make
it my business to find out. Tut, tut, tut! You are a wonder,
Jed did not dispute the truth of this statement. He looked
troubled, however. "Sho!" he said; "I'm sorry if I plagued 'Bijah
that way. If I'd known he was sick I wouldn't have done it. I
never once thought so many folks as one every hour would want to
see me this time of year. Dear me! I'm sorry about 'Bije. Maybe
I'd better go down and kind of explain it to him."
Captain Sam chuckled. "I wouldn't," he said. "If I was you I'd
explain over the long distance telephone. But, anyhow, I wouldn't
worry much. I cal'late Emma J. exaggerated affairs some.
Probably, if the truth was known, you'd find not more than four
folks came there lookin' for you yesterday. Don't worry, Jed."
Jed did not answer. The word "worry" had reminded him of his other
visitor that morning. He looked so serious that his friend
repeated his adjuration.
"Don't worry, I tell you," he said, again. "'Tisn't worth it."
"All right, I won't. . . . I won't. . . . Sam, I was thinkin'
about you afore you came in. You remember I told you that?"
"I remember. What have you got on your mind? Any more money
kickin' around this glory-hole that you want me to put to your
"Eh? . . . Oh, yes, I believe there is some somewheres. Seems to
me I put about a hundred and ten dollars, checks and bills and
such, away day before yesterday for you to take when you came.
Maybe I'll remember where I put it before you go. But 'twan't
about that I was thinkin'. Sam, how is Barzilla Small's boy, Lute,
gettin' along in Gus Howes' job at the bank?"
Captain Sam snorted disgust.
"Gettin' along!" he repeated. "He's gettin' along the way a squid
swims, and that's backwards. And, if you asked me, I'd say the
longer he stayed the further back he'd get."
"Sho! then he did turn out to be a leak instead of an able seaman,
"A leak! Gracious king! He's like a torpedo blow-up under the
engine-room. The bank'll sink if he stays aboard another month, I
do believe. And yet," he added, with a shake of the head, "I don't
see but he'll have to stay; there ain't another available candidate
for the job in sight. I 'phoned up to Boston and some of our
friends are lookin' around up there, but so far they haven't had
any success. This war is makin' young men scarce, that is young
men that are good for much. Pretty soon it'll get so that a
healthy young feller who ain't in uniform will feel about as much
out of place as a hog in a synagogue. Yes, sir! Ho, ho!"
He laughed in huge enjoyment of his own joke. Jed stared dreamily
at the adjusting screw on the handsaw. His hands clasped his knee,
his foot was lifted from the floor and began to swing back and
"Well," queried his friend, "what have you got on your mind? Out
"Eh? . . . On my mind?"
"Yes. When I see you begin to shut yourself together in the middle
like a jackknife and start swinging that number eleven of yours I
know you're thinkin' hard about somethin' or other. What is it
"Um . . . well . . . er . . . Sam, if you saw a chance to get a
real smart young feller in Lute's place in the bank you'd take him,
"Would I? Would a cat eat lobster? Only show him to me, that's
"Um-hm. . . . Now of course you know I wouldn't do anything to
hurt Lute. Not for the world I wouldn't. It's only if you ARE
goin' to let him go--"
"IF I am. Either he'll have to let go or the bank will, one or
t'other. United we sink, divided one of us may float, that's the
way I look at it. Lute'll stay till we can locate somebody else to
take his job, and no longer."
"Ya-as. . . . Um-hm. . . . Well, I tell you, Sam: Don't you get
anybody else till you and I have another talk. It may be possible
that I could find you just the sort of young man you're lookin'
"Eh? YOU can find me one? YOU can? What are you givin' me, Jed?
Who is the young man; you?"
Jed gravely shook his head. "No-o," he drawled. "I hate to
disappoint you, Sam, but it ain't me. It's another--er--smart,
lively young feller. He ain't quite so old as I am; there's a
little matter of twenty odd years between us, I believe, but
otherwise than that he's all right. And he knows the bankin'
trade, so I'm told."
"Gracious king! Who is he? Where is he?"
"That I can't tell you just yet. But maybe I can by and by."
"Tell me now."
"No-o. No, I just heard about him and it was told to me in secret.
All I can say is don't get anybody to fill Lute Small's place till
you and I have another talk."
Captain Sam stared keenly into his friend's face. Jed bore the
scrutiny calmly; in fact he didn't seem to be aware of it. The
captain gave it up.
"All right," he said. "No use tryin' to pump you, I know that.
When you make up your mind to keep your mouth shut a feller
couldn't open it with a cold chisel. I presume likely you'll tell
in your own good time. Now if you'll scratch around and find those
checks and things you want me to deposit for you I'll take 'em and
be goin'. I'm in a little bit of a hurry this mornin'."
Jed "scratched around," finally locating the checks and bills in
the coffee pot on the shelf in his little kitchen.
"There!" he exclaimed, with satisfaction, "I knew I put 'em
somewheres where they'd be safe and where I couldn't forget 'em."
"Where you couldn't forget 'em! Why, you did forget 'em, didn't
"Um . . . yes . . . I cal'late I did this mornin', but that's
because I didn't make any coffee for breakfast. If I'd made coffee
same as I usually do I'd have found 'em."
"Why didn't you make coffee this mornin'?"
Jed's eye twinkled.
"W-e-e-ll," he drawled, "to be honest with you, Sam, 'twas because
I couldn't find the coffee pot. After I took it down to put this
money in it I put it back on a different shelf. I just found it
now by accident."
As the captain was leaving Jed asked one more question. "Sam," he
asked, "about this bank job now? If you had a chance to get a
bright, smart young man with experience in bank work, you'd hire
him, wouldn't you?"
Captain Hunniwell's answer was emphatic.
"You bet I would!" he declared. "If I liked his looks and his
references were good I'd hire him in two minutes. And salary, any
reasonable salary, wouldn't part us, either. . . . Eh? What makes
you look like that?"
For Jed's expression had changed; his hand moved across his chin.
"Eh--er--references?" he repeated.
"Why, why, of course. I'd want references from the folks he'd
worked for, statin' that he was honest and capable and all that.
With those I'd hire him in two minutes, as I said. You fetch him
along and see. So long, Jed. See you later."
He hustled out, stopping to tear from the outer door the placard
directing callers to call at Abijah Thompson's. Jed returned to
his box and sat down once more to ponder. In his innocence it had
not occurred to him that references would be required.
That evening, about nine, he crossed the yard and knocked at the
back door of the little house. Mrs. Armstrong answered the knock;
Barbara, of course, was in bed and asleep. Ruth was surprised to
see her landlord at that, for him, late hour. Also, remembering
the unceremonious way in which he had permitted her to depart at
the end of their interview that forenoon, she was not as cordial as
usual. She had made him her confidant, why she scarcely knew;
then, after expressing great interest and sympathy, he had suddenly
seemed to lose interest in the whole matter. She was acquainted
with his eccentricities and fits of absent-mindedness, but
nevertheless she had been hurt and offended. She told herself that
she should have expected nothing more from "Shavings" Winslow, the
person about whom two-thirds of Orham joked and told stories, but
the fact remained that she was disappointed. And she was angry,
not so much with him perhaps, as with herself. WHY had she been so
foolish as to tell any one of their humiliation?
So when Jed appeared at the back door she received him rather
coldly. He was quite conscious of the change in temperature, but
he made no comment and offered no explanation. Instead he told his
story, the story of his interview with Captain Hunniwell. As he
told it her face showed at first interest, then hope, and at the
last radiant excitement. She clasped her hands and leaned toward
him, her eyes shining.
"Oh, Mr. Winslow," she cried, breathlessly, "do you mean it? Do
you really believe Captain Hunniwell will give my brother a
position in his bank?"
Jed nodded slowly. "Yes," he said, "I think likely he might.
Course 'twouldn't be any great of a place, not at first--nor ever,
I cal'late, so far as that goes. 'Tain't a very big bank and wages
But she interrupted. "But that doesn't make any difference," she
cried. "Don't you see it doesn't! The salary and all that won't
count--now. It will be a start for Charles, an opportunity for him
to feel that he is a man again, doing a man's work, an honest man's
work. And he will be here where I can be with him, where we can be
together, where it won't be so hard for us to be poor and where
there will be no one who knows us, who knows our story. Oh, Mr.
Winslow, is it really true? If it is, how--how can we ever thank
you? How can I ever show you how grateful I feel?"
Her cheeks were flushed, her lips parted and joy shone in her eager
eyes. Her voice broke a little as she uttered the words. Jed
looked at her and then quickly looked away.
"I--I--don't talk so, Mrs. Armstrong," he pleaded, hastily. "It--
it ain't anything, it ain't really. It just--"
"Not anything? Not anything to find my brother the opportunity he
and I have been praying for? To give me the opportunity of having
him with me? Isn't that anything? It is everything. Oh, Mr.
Winslow, if you can do this for us--"
"Shsh! Sshh! Now, Mrs. Armstrong, please. You mustn't say I'm
doin' it for you. I'm the one that just happened to think of it,
that's all. You could have done it just as well, if you'd thought
"Perhaps," with a doubtful smile, "but I should never have thought
of it. You did because you were thinking for me--for my brother
and me. And--and I thought you didn't care."
"Eh? . . . Didn't care?"
"Yes. When I left you at the shop this morning after our talk.
You were so--so odd. You didn't speak, or offer to advise me as I
had asked you to; you didn't even say good-by. You just sat there
and let me go. And I didn't understand and--"
Jed put up a hand. His face was a picture of distress.
"Dear, dear, dear!" he exclaimed. "Did I do that? I don't
remember it, but of course I did if you say so. Now what on earth
possessed me to? . . . Eh?" as the idea occurred to him. "Tell
me, was I singin'?"
"Why, yes, you were. That is, you were--were--"
"Makin' a noise as if I'd swallowed a hymn book and one of the
tunes was chokin' me to death? Um-hm, that's the way I sing. And
I was singin' when you left me, eh? That means I was thinkin'
about somethin'. I told Babbie once, and it's the truth, that
thinkin' was a big job with me and when I did it I had to drop
everything else, come up into the wind like a schooner, you know,
and just lay to and think. . . . Oh, I remember now! You said
somethin' about your brother's workin' in a bank and that set me
thinkin' that Sam must be needin' somebody by this time in Lute
"You didn't know he needed any one?"
"No-o, not exactly; but I knew Lute, and that amounted to the same
thing. Mrs. Armstrong, I do hope you'll forgive me for--for
singin' and--and all the rest of my foolish actions."
"Forgive you! Will you forgive me for misjudging you?"
"Land sakes, don't talk that way. But there's one thing I haven't
said yet and you may not like it. I guess you and your brother'll
have to go to Sam and tell him the whole story."
Her expression changed. "The whole story?" she repeated. "Why,
what do you mean? Tell him that Charles has been in--in prison?
You don't mean THAT?"
"Um-hm," gravely; "I'm afraid I do. It looks to me as if it was
the only way."
"But we can't! Oh, Mr. Winslow, we can't do that."
"I know 'twill be awful hard for you. But, when I talked to Sam
about my havin' a possible candidate for the bank place, the very
last thing he said was that he'd be glad to see him providin' his
references was all right. I give you my word I'd never thought of
references, not till then."
"But if we tell him--tell him everything, we shall only make
matters worse, shan't we? Of course he won't give him the position
"There's a chance he won't, that's true. But Sam Hunniwell's a
fine feller, there ain't any better, and he likes you and--well, he
and I have been cruisin' in company for a long spell. Maybe he'll
give your brother a chance to make good. I hope he will."
"You only hope? I thought you said you believed."
"Well, I do, but of course it ain't sartin. I wish 'twas."
She was silent. Jed, watching her, saw the last traces of
happiness and elation fade from her face and disappointment and
discouragement come back to take their places. He pitied her, and
he yearned to help her. At last he could stand it no longer.
"Now, Mrs. Armstrong," he pleaded, "of course--"
"No," she said, as if coming to a final decision and speaking that
decision aloud: "No, I can't do it."
"Eh? Can't do--what?"
"I can't have Captain Hunniwell know of our trouble. I came here
to Orham, where no one knew me, to avoid that very thing. At home
there in Middleford I felt as if every person I met was staring at
me and saying, 'Her brother is in prison.' I was afraid to have
Babbie play with the other children. I was--but there, I won't
talk about it. I can't. And I cannot have it begin again here.
I'll go away first. We will all go away, out West, anywhere--
anywhere where we can be--clean--and like other people."
Jed was conscious of a cold sensation, like the touch of an icicle,
up and down his spine. Going away! She and Babbie going away! In
his mind's eye he saw a vision of the little house closed once more
and shuttered tight as it used to be. He gasped.
"Now, now, Mrs. Armstrong," he faltered. "Don't talk about goin'
away. It--it isn't needful for you to do anything like that. Of
course it ain't. You--you mustn't. I--we can't spare you."
She drew a long breath. "I would go to the other end of the
world," she said, "rather than tell Captain Hunniwell the truth
about my brother. I told you because Babbie had told you so much
already. . . . Oh," turning swiftly toward him, "YOU won't tell
Captain Hunniwell, will you?"
Before he could answer she stretched out her hand. "Oh, please
forgive me," she cried. "I am not myself. I am almost crazy, I
think. And when you first told me about the position in the bank I
was so happy. Oh, Mr. Winslow, isn't there SOME way by which
Charles could have that chance? Couldn't--couldn't he get it and--
and work there for--for a year perhaps, until they all saw what a
splendid fellow he was, and THEN tell them--if it seemed necessary?
They would know him then, and like him; they couldn't help it,
every one likes him."
She brushed the tears from her eyes. Poor Jed, miserable and most
unreasonably conscience-stricken, writhed in his chair. "I--I
don't know," he faltered. "I declare I don't see how. Er--er--
Out in that bank where he used to work, that Wisconsin bank, he--
you said he did first-rate there?"
She started. "Yes, yes," she cried, eagerly. "Oh, he was splendid
there! And the man who was the head of that bank when Charles was
there is an old friend of ours, of the family; he has retired now
but he would help us if he could, I know. I believe . . . I wonder
if . . . Mr. Winslow, I can't tell any one in Orham of our disgrace
and I can't bear to give up that opportunity for my brother. Will
you leave it to me for a little while? Will you let me think it
Of course Jed said he would and went back to his little room over
the shop. As he was leaving she put out her hand and said, with
"Thank you, Mr. Winslow. Whatever comes of this, or if nothing
comes of it, I can never thank you enough for your great kindness."
Jed gingerly shook the extended hand and fled, his face scarlet.
During the following week, although he saw his neighbors each day,
and several times a day, Mrs. Armstrong did not mention her brother
or the chance of his employment in the Orham bank. Jed, very much
surprised at her silence, was tempted to ask what her decision was,
or even if she had arrived at one. On one occasion he threw out a
broad hint, but the hint was not taken, instead the lady changed
the subject; in fact, it seemed to him that she made it a point of
avoiding that subject and was anxious that he should avoid it,
also. He was sure she had not abandoned the idea which, at first,
had so excited her interest and raised her hopes. She seemed to
him to be still under a strong nervous strain, to speak and act as
if under repressed excitement; but she had asked him to leave the
affair to her, to let her think it over, so of course he could do
or say nothing until she had spoken. But he wondered and
speculated a good deal and was vaguely troubled. When Captain Sam
Hunniwell called he did not again refer to his possible candidate
for the position now held by Luther Small. And, singularly enough,
the captain himself did not mention the subject.
But one morning almost two weeks after Jed's discussion with the
young widow she and Captain Hunniwell came into the windmill shop
together. Mrs. Armstrong's air of excitement was very much in
evidence. Her cheeks were red, her eyes sparkled, her manner
animated. Her landlord had never seen her look so young, or, for
that matter, so happy.
Captain Sam began the conversation. He, too, seemed to be in high
"Well, Jedidah Wilfred Shavin's'," he observed, facetiously, "what
do you suppose I've got up my sleeve this mornin'?"
Jed laid down the chisel he was sharpening.
"Your arms, I presume likely," he drawled.
"Yes, I've got my arms and there's a fist at the end of each one of
'em. Any more--er--flippity answers like that one and you're
liable to think you're struck by lightnin'. This lady and I have
got news for you. Do you know what 'tis?"
Jed looked at Mrs. Armstrong and then at the speaker.
"No-o," he said, slowly.
"Well, to begin with it's this: Lute Small is leavin' the Orham
National a week from next Saturday by a vote of eight to one. The
directors and the cashier and I are the eight and he's the one.
Ho, ho! And who do you suppose comes aboard on the next Monday
mornin' to take over what Lute has left of the job? Eh? Who?
Why, your own candidate, that's who."
Jed started. Again he looked at Mrs. Armstrong and, as if in
answer to that look, she spoke.
"Yes, Mr. Winslow," she said, quickly, "my brother is coming to
Orham and Captain Hunniwell has given him the position. It is
really you to whom he owes it all. You thought of it and spoke to
the captain and to me."
"But why in time," demanded Captain Sam, "didn't you tell me right
out that 'twas Mrs. Armstrong's brother you had in mind? Gracious
king! if I'd known that I'd have had Lute out a fortni't sooner."
Jed made no reply to this. He was still staring at the lady.
"But--but--" he faltered, "did you--have you--"
He stopped in the middle of a word. Ruth was standing behind the
captain and he saw the frightened look in her eyes and the swift
movement of her finger to her lips.
"Oh, yes," she said. "I--I have. I told Captain Hunniwell of
Charlie's experience in the bank in Wisconsin. He has written
there and the answer is quite satisfactory, or so he seems to
"Couldn't be better," declared Captain Sam. "Here's the letter
from the man that used to be the bank president out there. Read
it, Jed, if you want to."
Jed took the letter and, with a hand which shook a little, adjusted
his glasses and read. It was merely a note, brief and to the
point. It stated simply that while Charles Phillips had been in
the employ of their institution as messenger, bookkeeper and
assistant teller, he had been found honest, competent, ambitious
and thoroughly satisfactory.
"And what more do I want than that?" demanded the captain.
"Anybody who can climb up that way afore he's twenty-five will do
well enough for yours truly. Course he and I haven't met yet, but
his sister and I've met, and I'm not worryin' but what I'll like
the rest of the family. Besides," he added, with a combination
laugh and groan, "it's a case of desperation with us up at the
bank. We've got to have somebody to plug that leak you was talkin'
about, Jed, and we've got to have 'em immediate, right off quick,
at once, or a little sooner. It's a providence, your brother is to
us, Mrs. Armstrong," he declared; "a special providence and no
He hurried off a moment later, affirming that he was late at the
"Course the cashier's there and the rest of the help," he added,
"but it takes all hands and the cat to keep Lute from puttin' the
kindlin' in the safe and lightin' up the stove with ten dollar
bills. So long."
After he had gone Jed turned to his remaining visitor. His voice
shook a little as he spoke.
"You haven't told him!" he faltered, reproachfully. "You--you
haven't told him!"
She shook her head. "I couldn't--I couldn't," she declared.
"DON'T look at me like that. Please don't! I know it is wrong. I
feel like a criminal; I feel wicked. But," defiantly, "I should
feel more wicked if I had told him and my brother had lost the only
opportunity that might have come to him. He WILL make good, Mr.
Winslow. I KNOW he will. He will make them respect him and like
him. They can't help it. See!" she cried, her excitement and
agitation growing; "see how Mr. Reed, the bank president there at
home, the one who wrote that letter, see what he did for Charles!
He knows, too; he knows the whole story. I--I wrote to him. I
wrote that very night when you told me, Mr. Winslow. I explained
everything, I begged him--he is an old, old friend of our family--
to do this thing for our sakes. You see, it wasn't asking him to
lie, or to do anything wrong. It was just that he tell of Charles
and his ability and character as he knew them. It wasn't wrong,
Jed did not answer.
"If it was," she declared, "I can't help it. I would do it again--
for the same reason--to save him and his future, to save us all. I
can't help what you think of me. It doesn't matter. All that does
matter is that you keep silent and let my brother have his chance."
Jed, leaning forward in his chair by the workbench, put his hand to
"Don't--don't talk so, Mrs. Armstrong," he begged. "You know--you
know I don't think anything you've done is wrong. I ain't got the
right to think any such thing as that. And as for keepin' still--
why, I--I did hope you wouldn't feel 'twas necessary to ask that."
"I don't--I don't. I know you and I trust you. You are the only
person in Orham whom I have trusted. You know that."
"Why, yes--why, yes, I do know it and--and I'm ever so much obliged
to you. More obliged than I can tell you, I am. Now--now would
you mind tellin' me just one thing more? About this Mr. What's-
his-name out West in the bank there--this Mr. Reed--did he write
you he thought 'twas all right for him to send Sam the--the kind of
letter he did send him, the one givin' your brother such a good
The color rose in her face and she hesitated before replying.
"No," she confessed, after a moment. "He did not write me that he
thought it right to give Captain Hunniwell such a reference. In
fact he wrote that he thought it all wrong, deceitful, bordering on
the dishonest. He much preferred having Charles go to the captain
and tell the whole truth. On the other hand, however, he said he
realized that that might mean the end of the opportunity here and
perhaps public scandal and gossip by which we all might suffer.
And he said he had absolute confidence that Charles was not a
criminal by intent, and he felt quite sure that he would never go
wrong again. If he were still in active business, he said, he
should not hesitate to employ him. Therefore, although he still
believed the other course safer and better, he would, if Captain
Hunniwell wrote, answer as I had asked. And he did answer in that
way. So, you see," she cried, eagerly, "HE believes in Charles,
just as I do. And just as you will when you know, Mr. Winslow.
Oh, WON'T you try to believe now?"
A harder-hearted man than Jed Winslow would have found it difficult
to refuse such a plea made in such a way by such a woman. And
Jed's heart was anything but hard.
"Now, now, Mrs. Armstrong," he stammered, "you don't have to ask me
that. Course I believe in the poor young chap. And--and I guess
likely everything's goin' to come out all right. That Mr. What's-
his-name--er--Wright--no, Reed--I got read and write mixed up, I
guess--he's a business man and he'd ought to know about such things
better'n I do. I don't doubt it'll come out fine and we won't
worry any more about it."
"And we will still be friends? You know, Mr. Winslow, you are the
only real friend I have in Orham. And you have been so loyal."
Jed flushed with pleasure.
"I--I told you once," he said, "that my friends generally called me
She laughed. "Very well, I'll call you 'Jed,' she said. "But turn
about is fair play and you must call me 'Ruth.' Will you? Oh,
there's Babbie calling me. Thank you again, for Charles' sake and
my own. Good morning--Jed."
"Er--er--good mornin', Mrs. Armstrong."
"Er--I mean Mrs. Ruth."
The most of that forenoon, that is the hour or so remaining, was
spent by Mr. Winslow in sitting by the workbench and idly
scratching upon a board with the point of the chisel. Sometimes
his scratches were meaningless, sometimes they spelled a name, a
name which he seemed to enjoy spelling. But at intervals during
that day, and on other days which followed, he was conscious of an
uneasy feeling, a feeling almost of guilt coupled with a dim
Ruth Armstrong had called him a friend and loyal. But had he been
as loyal to an older friend, a friend he had known all his life?
Had he been loyal to Captain Sam Hunniwell?
That was the feeling of guilt. The foreboding was not as definite,
but it was always with him; he could not shake it off. All his
life he had dealt truthfully with the world, had not lied, or
evaded, or compromised. Now he had permitted himself to become a
silent partner in such a compromise. And some day, somehow,
trouble was coming because of it.
Before the end of another week Charles Phillips came to Orham. It
was Ruth who told Jed the news. She came into the windmill shop
and, standing beside the bench where he was at work, she said: "Mr.
Winslow, I have something to tell you."
Jed put down the pencil and sheet of paper upon which he had been
drawing new patterns for the "gull vane" which was to move its
wings when the wind blew. This great invention had not progressed
very far toward practical perfection. Its inventor had been busy
with other things and had of late rather lost interest in it. But
Barbara's interest had not flagged and to please her Jed had
promised to think a little more about it during the next day or so.
"But can't you make it flap its wings, Uncle Jed?" the child had
Jed rubbed his chin. "W-e-e-ll," he drawled, "I don't know. I
thought I could, but now I ain't so sure. I could make 'em whirl
'round and 'round like a mill or a set of sailor paddles, but to
make 'em flap is different. They've got to be put on strong enough
so they won't flop off. You see," he added, solemnly, "if they
kept floppin' off they wouldn't keep flappin' on. There's all the
difference in the world between a flap and flop."
He was trying to reconcile that difference when Ruth entered the
shop. He looked up at her absently. "Mr. Winslow," she began
His reproachful look made her pause and smile slightly in spite of
"I'm sorry," she said. "Well, then--Jed--I have something to tell
you. My brother will be here to-morrow."
Jed had been expecting to hear this very thing almost any day, but
he was a little startled nevertheless.
"Sho!" he exclaimed. "You don't tell me!"
"Yes. He is coming on the evening train to-morrow. I had word
from him this morning."
Jed's hand moved to his chin. "Hum . . ." he mused. "I guess
likely you'll be pretty glad to see him."
"I shall be at least that," with a little break in her voice. "You
can imagine what his coming will mean to me. No, I suppose you
can't imagine it; no one can."
Jed did not say whether he imagined it or not.
"I--I'm real glad for you, Mrs. Ruth," he declared. "Mrs. Ruth"
was as near as he ever came to fulfilling their agreement
"I'm sure you are. And for my brother's sake and my own I am very
grateful to you. Mr. Winslow--Jed, I mean--you have done so much
for us already; will you do one thing more?"
Jed's answer was given with no trace of his customary hesitation.
"Yes," he said.
"This is really for me, perhaps, more than for Charles--or at least
Again there was no hesitation in the Winslow reply.
"That won't make it any harder," he observed, gravely.
"Thank you. It is just this: I have decided not to tell my brother
that I have told you of his--his trouble, of his having been--where
he has been, or anything about it. He knows I have not told
Captain Hunniwell; I'm sure he will take it for granted that I have
told no one. I think it will be so much easier for the poor boy if
he can come here to Orham and think that no one knows. And no one
does know but you. You understand, don't you?" she added, earnestly.
He looked a little troubled, but he nodded.
"Yes," he said, slowly. "I understand, I cal'late."
"I'm sure you do. Of course, if he should ask me point-blank if I
had told any one, I should answer truthfully, tell him that I had
told you and explain why I did it. And some day I shall tell him
whether he asks or not. But when he first comes here I want him to
be--to be--well, as nearly happy as is possible under the
circumstances. I want him to meet the people here without the
feeling that they know he has been--a convict, any of them. And
so, unless he asks, I shall not tell him that even you know; and I
am sure you will understand and not--not--"
"Not say anything when he's around that might let the cat out of
the bag. Yes, yes, I see. Well, I'll be careful; you can count on
me, Mrs. Ruth."
She looked down into his homely, earnest face. "I do," she said,
simply, and went out of the room. For several minutes after she
had gone Jed sat there gazing after her. Then he sighed, picked up
his pencil and turned again to the drawing of the gull.
And the following evening young Phillips came. Jed, looking from
his shop window, saw the depot-wagon draw up at the gate. Barbara
was the first to alight. Philander Hardy came around to the back
of the vehicle and would have assisted her, but she jumped down
without his assistance. Then came Ruth and, after her, a slim
young fellow carrying a traveling bag. It was dusk and Jed could
not see his face plainly, but he fancied that he noticed a
resemblance to his sister in the way he walked and the carriage of
his head. The two went into the little house together and Jed
returned to his lonely supper. He was a trifle blue that evening,
although he probably would not have confessed it. Least of all
would he have confessed the reason, which was that he was just a
little jealous. He did not grudge his tenant her happiness in her
brother's return, but he could not help feeling that from that time
on she would not be as intimate and confidential with him, Jed
Winslow, as she had been. After this it would be to this brother
of hers that she would turn for help and advice. Well, of course,
that was what she should do, what any one of sense would do, but
Jed was uncomfortable all the same. Also, because he was himself,
he felt a sense of guilty remorse at being uncomfortable.
The next morning he was presented to the new arrival. It was
Barbara who made the presentation. She came skipping into the
windmill shop leading the young man by the hand.
"Uncle Jed," she said, "this is my Uncle Charlie. He's been away
and he's come back and he's going to work here always and live in
the bank. No, I mean he's going to work in the bank always and
live-- No, I don't, but you know what I do mean, don't you, Uncle
Charles Phillips smiled. "If he does he must be a mind-reader,
Babbie," he said. Then, extending his hand, he added: "Glad to
know you, Mr. Winslow. I've heard a lot about you from Babbie and
Jed might have replied that he had heard a lot about him also, but
he did not. Instead he said "How d'ye do," shook the proffered
hand, and looked the speaker over. What he saw impressed him
favorably. Phillips was a good-looking young fellow, with a
pleasant smile, a taking manner and a pair of dark eyes which
reminded Mr. Winslow of his sister's. It was easy to believe
Ruth's statement that he had been a popular favorite among their
acquaintances in Middleford; he was the sort the average person
would like at once, the sort which men become interested in and
He was rather quiet during this first call. Babbie did two-thirds
of the talking. She felt it her duty as an older inhabitant to
display "Uncle Jed" and his creations for her relative's benefit.
Vanes, sailors, ships and mills were pointed out and commented
"He makes every one, Uncle Charlie," she declared solemnly. "He's
made every one that's here and--oh, lots and lots more. He made
the big mill that's up in our garret-- You haven't seen it yet,
Uncle Charlie; it's going to be out on our lawn next spring--and he
gave it to me for a--for a-- What kind of a present was that mill
you gave me, Uncle Jed, that time when Mamma and Petunia and I were
going back to Mrs. Smalley's because we thought you didn't want us
to have the house any longer?"
Jed looked puzzled.
"Eh?" he queried. "What kind of a present? I don't know's I
understand what you mean."
"I mean what kind of a present was it. It wasn't a Christmas
present or a birthday present or anything like that, but it must be
SOME kind of one. What kind of present would you call it, Uncle
Jed rubbed his chin.
"W-e-e-ll," he drawled, "I guess likely you might call it a forget-
me-not present, if you had to call it anything."
"A--a forget-me-not is a kind of flower, isn't it?" she asked.
"But this is a windmill. How can you make a flower out of a
windmill, Uncle Jed?"
Jed rubbed his chin. "Well, that's a question," he admitted. "But
you can make flour IN a windmill, 'cause I've seen it done."
More pondering on the young lady's part. Then she gave it up.
"You mustn't mind if you don't understand him, Uncle Charlie," she
said, in her most confidential and grown-up manner. "He says lots
of things Petunia and I don't understand at all, but he's awful
nice, just the same. Mamma says he's choking--no, I mean joking
when he talks that way and that we'll understand the jokes lots
better when we're older. SHE understands them almost always," she
Phillips laughed. Jed's slow smile appeared and vanished. "Looks
as if facin' my jokes was no child's play, don't it," he observed.
"Well, I will give in that gettin' any fun out of 'em is a man's
On the following Monday the young man took up his duties in the
bank. Captain Hunniwell interviewed him, liked him, and hired him
all in the same forenoon. By the end of the first week of their
association as employer and employee the captain liked him still
better. He dropped in at the windmill shop to crow over the fact.
"He takes hold same as an old-time first mate used to take hold of
a green crew," he declared. "He had his job jumpin' to the whistle
before the second day was over. I declare I hardly dast to wake up
mornin's for fear I'll find out our havin' such a smart feller is
only a dream and that the livin' calamity is Lute Small. And to
think," he added, "that you knew about him for the land knows how
long and would only hint instead of tellin'. I don't know as you'd
have told yet if his sister hadn't told first. Eh? Would you?"
Jed deliberately picked a loose bristle from his paint brush.
"Maybe not," he admitted.
"Gracious king! Well, WHY not?"
"Oh, I don't know. I'm kind of--er--funny that way. Like to take
my own time, I guess likely. Maybe you've noticed it, Sam."
"Eh? MAYBE I've noticed it? A blind cripple that was born deef
and dumb would have noticed that the first time he ran across you.
What on earth are you doin' to that paint brush; tryin' to
His friend, who had been staring mournfully at the brush, now laid
"I was tryin' to decide," he drawled, "whether it needed hair tonic
or a wig. So you like this Charlie Phillips, do you?"
"Sartin sure I do! And the customers like him, too. Why, old
Melissa Busteed was in yesterday and he waited on her for half an
hour, seemed so, and when the agony was over neither one of 'em had
got mad enough so anybody outside the buildin' would notice it.
And that's a miracle that ain't happened in that bank for more'n
ONE year. Why, I understand Melissa went down street tellin' all
hands what a fine young man we'd got workin' for us. . . . Here,
what are you laughin' at?"
The word was ill-chosen; Jed seldom laughed, but he had smiled
slightly and the captain noticed it.
"What are you grinnin' at?" he repeated.
Jed's hand moved across his chin.
"Gab Bearse was in a spell ago," he replied, "and he was tellin'
about what Melissa said."
"Well, she said what I just said she said, didn't she?"
Mr. Winslow nodded. "Um-hm," he admitted, "she said--er--all of
"All of it? Was there some more?"
"'Cordin' to Gabe there was. 'Cordin' to him she said . . . she
said . . . er . . . Hum! this brush ain't much better'n the other.
Seem to be comin' down with the mange, both of 'em."
"Gracious king! Consarn the paint brushes! Tell me what Melissa
"Oh, yes, yes. . . . Well, 'cordin' to Gabe she said 'twas a
comfort to know there was a place in this town where an unprotected
female could go and not be insulted."
Captain Sam's laugh could have been heard across the road.
"Ho, ho!" he roared. "An unprotected female, eh? 'Cordin' to my
notion it's the male that needs protection when Melissa's around.
I've seen Lute Small standin' in the teller's cage, tongue-tied and
with the sweat standin' on his forehead, while Melissa gave him her
candid opinion of anybody that would vote to allow alcohol to be
sold by doctors in this town. And 'twas ten minutes of twelve
Saturday mornin', too, and there was eight men waitin' their turn
in line, and nary one of them or Lute either had the spunk to ask
Melissa to hurry. Ho, ho! 'unprotected female' is good!"
He had his laugh out and then added: "But there's no doubt that
Charlie's goin' to be popular with the women. Why, even Maud seems
to take a shine to him. Said she was surprised to have me show
such good judgment. Course she didn't really mean she was
surprised," he hastened to explain, evidently fearing that even an
old friend like Jed might think he was criticizing his idolized
daughter. "She was just teasin' her old dad, that's all. But I
could see that Charlie kind of pleased her. Well, he pleases me
and he pleases the cashier and the directors. We agree, all of us,
that we're mighty lucky. I gave you some of the credit for gettin'
him for us, Jed," he added magnanimously. "You don't really
deserve much, because you hung back so and wouldn't tell his name,
but I gave it to you just the same. What's a little credit between
friends, eh? That's what Bluey Batcheldor said the other day when
he came in and wanted to borrow a hundred dollars on his personal
note. Ho! ho!"
Captain Sam's glowing opinion of his paragon was soon echoed by the
majority of Orham's population. Charlie Phillips, although quiet
and inclined to keep to himself, was liked by almost every one. In
the bank and out of it he was polite, considerate and always
agreeable. During these first days Jed fancied that he detected in
the young man a certain alert dread, a sense of being on guard, a
reserve in the presence of strangers, but he was not sure that this
was anything more than fancy, a fancy inspired by the fact that he
knew the boy's secret and was on the lookout for something of the
sort. At all events no one else appeared to notice it and it
became more and more evident that Charlie, as nine-tenths of Orham
called him within a fortnight, was destined to be the favorite here
that, according to his sister, he had been everywhere else.
Of course there were a few who did not, or would not, like him.
Luther Small, the deposed bank clerk, was bitter in his sneers and
caustic in his comments. However, as Lute loudly declared that he
was just going to quit anyhow, that he wouldn't have worked for old
Hunniwell another week if he was paid a million a minute for it,
his hatred of his successor seemed rather unaccountable. Barzilla
Small, Luther's fond parent, also professed intense dislike for the
man now filling his son's position in the bank. "I don't know how
'tis," affirmed Barzilla, "but the fust time I see that young
upstart I says to myself: 'Young feller, you ain't my kind.' This
remark being repeated to Captain Sam, the latter observed: 'That's
gospel truth and thank the Lord for it.'"
Another person who refused to accept Phillips favorably was Phineas
Babbitt. Phineas's bitterness was not the sort to sweeten over
night. He disliked the new bank clerk and he told Jed Winslow why.
They met at the post office--Phineas had not visited the windmill
shop since the day when he received the telegram notifying him of
his son's enlistment--and some one of the group waiting for the
mail had happened to speak of Charlie Phillips. "He's a nice
obligin' young chap," said the speaker, Captain Jeremiah Burgess.
"I like him fust-rate; everybody does, I guess."
Mr. Babbitt, standing apart from the group, his bristling chin
beard moving as he chewed his eleven o'clock allowance of "Sailor's
Sweetheart," turned and snarled over his shoulder.
"I don't," he snapped.
His tone was so sharp and his utterance so unexpected that Captain
"Land of Goshen! You bark like a dog with a sore throat," he
exclaimed. "Why don't you like him?"
"'Cause I don't, that's all."
"That ain't much of a reason, seems to me. What have you got
against him, Phin? You don't know anything to his discredit, do
"Never you mind whether I do or not."
Captain Jerry grunted but seemed disinclined to press the point
further. Every one was surprised therefore when Jed Winslow moved
across to where Phineas was standing, and looking mildly down at
the little man, asked: "Do you know anything against him, Phin?"
"None of your business. What are you buttin' in for, Shavin's?"
"I ain't. I just asked you, that's all. DO you know anything
against Charlie Phillips?"
"None of your business, I tell you."
"I know it ain't. But do you, Phin?"
Each repetition of the question had been made in the same mild,
monotonous drawl. Captain Jerry and the other loungers burst into
a laugh. Mr. Babbitt's always simmering temper boiled over.
"No, I don't," he shouted. "But I don't know anything in his
favor, neither. He's a pet of Sam Hunniwell and that's enough for
me. Sam Hunniwell and every one of his chums can go to the devil.
Every one of 'em; do you understand that, Jed Winslow?"
Jed rubbed his chin. The solemn expression of his face did not
change an atom. "Thank you, Phin," he drawled. "When I'm ready to
start I'll get you to give me a letter of introduction."
Jed had been fearful that her brother's coming might lessen the
intimate quality of Ruth Armstrong's friendship with and dependence
upon him. He soon discovered, to his delight, that these fears
were groundless. He found that the very fact that Ruth had made
him her sole confidant provided a common bond which brought them
closer together. Ruth's pride in her brother's success at the bank
and in the encomiums of the townsfolk had to find expression
somewhere. She could express them to her landlord and she did.
Almost every day she dropped in at the windmill shop for a moment's
call and chat, the subject of that chat always, of course, the
"I told you he would succeed," she declared, her eyes shining and
her face alight. "I told you so, Jed. And he has. Mr. Barber,
the cashier, told me yesterday that Charles was the best man they
had had in the bank for years. And every time I meet Captain
Hunniwell he stops to shake hands and congratulates me on having
such a brother. And they like him, not only because he is
successful in the bank, but for himself; so many people have told
me so. Why, for the first time since we came to Orham I begin to
feel as if I were becoming acquainted, making friends."
Jed nodded. "He's a nice young chap," he said, quietly.
"Of course he is. . . . You mustn't mind my shameless family
boasting," she added, with a little laugh. "It is only because I
am so proud of him, and so glad--so glad for us all."
Jed did not mind. It is doubtful if at that moment he was aware of
what she was saying. He was thinking how her brother's coming had
improved her, how well she was looking, how much more color there
was in her cheeks, and how good it was to hear her laugh once more.
The windmill shop was a different place when she came. It was a
lucky day for him when the Powlesses frightened him into letting
Barbara and her mother move into the old house for a month's trial.
Of course he did not express these thoughts aloud, in fact he
expressed nothing whatever. He thought and thought and, after a
time, gradually became aware that there was absolute silence in the
shop. He looked at his caller and found that she was regarding him
intently, a twinkle in her eye and an amused expression about her
mouth. He started and awoke from his day-dream.
"Eh?" he exclaimed. "Yes--yes, I guess so."
She shook her head.
"You do?" she said. "Why, I thought your opinion was exactly the
"Eh? Oh, yes, so 'tis, so 'tis."
"Of course. And just what did you say about it?"
Jed was confused. He swallowed hard, hesitated, swallowed again
and stammered: "I-- Why, I--that is--you see--"
She laughed merrily. "You are a very poor pretender, Jed," she
declared. "Confess, you haven't the least idea what opinion I
"Well--well, to be right down honest, I--I don't know's I have,
"Of course, you haven't. There isn't any opinion. You have been
sitting there for the last five minutes, staring straight at me and
picking that paint brush to pieces. I doubt if you even knew I was
"Eh? Oh, yes, I know that, I know that all right. Tut! tut!"
inspecting the damaged brush. "That's a nice mess, ain't it? Now
what do you suppose I did that for? I'm scared to death, when I
have one of those go-to-sleeptic fits, that I'll pick my head to
pieces. Not that that would be as big a loss as a good paint
brush," he added, reflectively.
His visitor smiled. "I think it would," she said. "Neither Babbie
nor I could afford to lose that head; it and its owner have been
too thoughtful and kind. But tell me, what WERE you thinking about
The question appeared to embarrass Mr. Winslow a good deal. He
colored, fidgeted and stammered. "Nothin', nothin' of any
account," he faltered. "My--er--my brain was takin' a walk around
my attic, I cal'late. There's plenty of room up there for a
"No, tell me; I want to know." Her expression changed and she
added: "You weren't thinking of--of Charles'--his trouble at
Middleford? You don't still think me wrong in not telling Captain
"Eh? . . . Oh, no, no. I wasn't thinkin' that at all."
"But you don't answer my question. Well, never mind. I am really
almost happy for the first time in ever so long and I mean to
remain so if I can. I am glad I did not tell--glad. And you must
agree with me, Mr. Winslow--Jed, I mean--or I shall not run in so
often to talk in this confidential way."
"Eh? Not run in? Godfreys, Mrs. Ruth, don't talk so! Excuse my
strong language, but you scared me, talkin' about not runnin' in."
"You deserve to be scared, just a little, for criticizing me in
your thoughts. Oh, don't think me frivolous," she pleaded, with
another swift change. "I realize it was all wrong. And some time,
by and by, after Charles has firmly established himself, after they
really know him, I shall go to the bank people, or he will go to
them, and tell the whole story. By that time I'm sure--I'm sure
they will forgive us both. Don't you think so?"
Jed would have forgiven her anything. He nodded.
"Sartin sure they will," he said. Then, asking a question that had
been in his thoughts for some time, he said: "How does your brother
feel about it himself, Mrs. Ruth?"
"At first he thought he should tell everything. He did not want to
take the position under false pretenses, he said. But when I
explained how he might lose this opportunity and what an
opportunity it might be for us all he agreed that perhaps it was
best to wait. And I am sure it is best, Jed. But then, I mean to
put the whole dreadful business from my mind, if I can, and be
happy with my little girl and my brother. And I am happy; I feel
almost like a girl myself. So you mustn't remind me, Jed, and you
mustn't criticize me, even though you and I both know you are
right. You are my only confidant, you know, and I don't know what
in the world I should do without you, so try to bear with me, if
Jed observed that he guessed likely there wouldn't be much trouble
at his end of the line, providing she could manage to worry along
with a feller that went to sleep sittin' up, and in the daytime,
like an owl. After she had gone, however, he again relapsed into
slumber, and his dreams, judging by his expression, must have been
That afternoon he had an unexpected visit. He had just finished
washing his dinner dishes and he and Babbie were in the outer shop
together, when the visitor came. Jed was droning "Old Hundred"
with improvisations of his own, the said improvising having the
effect of slowing down the already extremely deliberate anthem
until the result compared to the original was for speed, as an
oyster scow compared to an electric launch. This musical crawl he
used as an accompaniment to the sorting and piling of various parts
of an order just received from a Southern resort. Barbara was
helping him, at least she called her activities "helping." When
Jed had finished counting a pile of vanes or mill parts she counted
them to make sure. Usually her count and his did not agree, so
both counted again, getting in each other's way and, as Mr. Winslow
expressed it, having a good time generally. And this remark,
intended to be facetious, was after all pretty close to the literal
truth. Certainly Babbie was enjoying herself, and Jed, where an
impatient man would have been frantic, was enjoying her enjoyment.
Petunia, perched in lopsided fashion on a heap of mill-sides was,
"There!" declared Jed, stacking a dozen sailors beside a dozen of
what the order called "birdhouses medium knocked down." "There!
that's the livin' last one, I do believe. Hi hum! Now we've got
to box 'em, haven't we? . . . Ye-es, yes, yes, yes. . . .
Hum. . . .
"'Di--de--di--de--di--de. . . ."
"Where's that hammer? Oh, yes, here 'tis."
Now where on earth have I put that pencil, Babbie? Have I
swallowed it? DON'T tell me you've seen me swallow it, 'cause that
flavor of lead-pencil never did agree with me."
The child burst into a trill of laughter.
"Why, Uncle Jed," she exclaimed, "there it is, behind your ear."
"Is it? Sho, so 'tis! Now that proves the instinct of dumb
animals, don't it? That lead-pencil knew enough to realize that my
ear was so big that anything short of a cord-wood stick could hide
behind it. Tut, tut! Surprisin', surprisin'!"
"But, Uncle Jed, a pencil isn't an animal."
"Eh? Ain't it? Seemed to me I'd read somethin' about the ragin'
lead-pencil seekin' whom it might devour. But maybe that was a--
er--lion or a clam or somethin'."
Babbie looked at him in puzzled fashion for a moment. Then she
sagely shook her head and declared: "Uncle Jed, I think you are
perfectly scru-she-aking. Petunia and I are convulshed. We--" she
stopped, listened, and then announced: "Uncle Jed, I THINK somebody
came up the walk."
The thought received confirmation immediately in the form of a
knock at the door. Jed looked over his spectacles.
"Hum," he mused, sadly, "there's no peace for the wicked, Babbie.
No sooner get one order all fixed and out of the way than along
comes a customer and you have to get another one ready. If I'd
known 'twas goin' to be like this I'd never have gone into
business, would you? But maybe 'tain't a customer, maybe it's
Cap'n Sam or Gabe Bearse or somebody. . . . They wouldn't knock,
though, 'tain't likely; anyhow Gabe wouldn't. . . . Come in," he
called, as the knock was repeated.
The person who entered the shop was a tall man in uniform. The
afternoon was cloudy and the outer shop, piled high with stock and
lumber, was shadowy. The man in uniform looked at Jed and Barbara
and they looked at him. He spoke first.
"Pardon me," he said, "but is your name Winslow?"
Jed nodded. "Yes, sir," he replied, deliberately. "I guess likely
"I have come here to see if you could let me have--"
Babbie interrupted him. Forgetting her manners in the excitement
of the discovery which had just flashed upon her, she uttered an
"Oh, Uncle Jed!" she exclaimed.
Jed, startled, turned toward her.
"Yes?" he asked, hastily. "What's the matter?"
"Don't you know? He--he's the nice officer one."
"Eh? The nice what? What are you talkin' about, Babbie?"
Babbie, now somewhat abashed and ashamed of her involuntary
outburst, turned red and hesitated.
"I mean," she stammered, "I mean he--he's the--officer one that--
that was nice to us that day."
"That day? What day? . . . Just excuse the little girl, won't
you?" he added, apologetically, turning to the caller. "She's made
a mistake; she thinks she knows you, I guess."
"But I DO, Uncle Jed. Don't you remember? Over at the flying
The officer himself took a step forward.
"Why, of course," he said, pleasantly. "She is quite right. I
thought your faces were familiar. You and she were over at the
camp that day when one of our construction plans was lost. She
found it for us. And Lieutenant Rayburn and I have been grateful
many times since," he added.
Jed recognized him then.
"Well, I snum!" he exclaimed. "Of course! Sartin! If it hadn't
been for you I'd have lost my life and Babbie'd have lost her clam
chowder. That carpenter feller would have had me hung for a spy in
ten minutes more. I'm real glad to see you, Colonel--Colonel Wood.
That's your name, if I recollect right."
"Not exactly. My name is Grover, and I'm not a colonel, worse
luck, only a major."
"Sho! Grover, eh? Now how in the nation did I get it Wood? Oh,
yes, I cal'late 'twas mixin' up groves and woods. Tut, tut!
Wonder I didn't call you 'Pines' or 'Bushes' or somethin'. . . .
But there, sit down, sit down. I'm awful glad you dropped in. I'd
about given up hopin' you would."
He brought forward a chair, unceremoniously dumping two stacks of
carefully sorted and counted vanes and sailors from its seat to the
floor prior to doing so. Major Grover declined to sit.
"I should like to, but I mustn't," he said. "And I shouldn't claim
credit for deliberately making you a social call. I came--that is,
I was sent here on a matter of--er--well, first aid to the injured.
I came to see if you would lend me a crank."
Jed looked at him. "A--a what?" he asked.
"A crank, a crank for my car. I motored over from the camp and
stopped at the telegraph office. When I came out my car refused to
go; the self-starter appears to have gone on a strike. I had left
my crank at the camp and my only hope seemed to be to buy or borrow
one somewhere. I asked the two or three fellows standing about the
telegraph office where I might be likely to find one. No one
seemed to know, but just then the old grouch--excuse me, person who
keeps the hardware store came along."
"Eh? Phin Babbitt? Little man with the stub of a paint brush
growin' on his chin?"
"Yes, that's the one. I asked him where I should be likely to find
a crank. He said if I came across to this shop I ought to find
"He did, eh? . . . Hum!"
"Yes, he did. So I came."
This observation being neither satisfying nor particularly
illuminating, Major Grover waited for something more explicit. He
waited in vain; Mr. Winslow, his eyes fixed upon the toe of his
visitor's military boot, appeared to be mesmerized.
"So I came," repeated the major, after an interval.
"Eh? . . . Oh, yes, yes. So you did, so you did. . . . Hum!"
He rose and, walking to the window, peeped about the edge of the
shade across and down the road in the direction of the telegraph
"Phineas," he drawled, musingly, "and Squealer and Lute Small and
Bluey. Hu-u-m! . . . Yes, yes."
He turned away from the window and began intoning a hymn. Major
Grover seemed to be divided between a desire to laugh and a
tendency toward losing patience.
"Well," he queried, after another interval, "about that crank?
Have you one I might borrow? It may not fit, probably won't, but I
should like to try it."
Jed sighed. "There's a crank here," he drawled, "but it wouldn't
be much use around automobiles, I'm afraid. I'm it."
"What? I don't understand."
"I say I'm it. My pet name around Orham is town crank. That's why
Phineas sent you to my shop. He said you OUGHT to find a crank
here. He was right, I'm 'most generally in."
This statement was made quietly, deliberately and with no trace of
resentment. Having made it, the speaker began picking up the vanes
and sailors he had spilled when he proffered his visitor the chair.
Major Grover colored, and frowned.
"Do you mean to tell me," he demanded, "that that fellow sent me
over here because--because--"
"Because I'm town crank? Ye-es, that's what I mean."
"Indeed! That is his idea of a joke, is it?"
"Seems to be. He's an awful comical critter, Phin Babbitt is--in
his own way."
"Well, it's not my way. He sends me over here to make an ass of
myself and insult you--"
"Now, now, Major, excuse me. Phin didn't have any idea that you'd
insult me. You see," with the fleeting smile, "he wouldn't believe
anybody could do that."
Grover turned sharply to the door. Mr. Winslow spoke his name.
"Er--Major Grover," he said, gently, "I wouldn't."
The major paused. "Wouldn't what?" he demanded.
"Go over there and tell Phin and the rest what you think of 'em.
If 'twould do 'em any good I'd say, 'For mercy sakes, go!' But
'twouldn't; they wouldn't believe it."
Grover's lips tightened.
"Telling it might do ME some good," he observed, significantly.
"Yes, I know. But maybe we might get the same good or more in a
different way. . . . Hum! . . . What--er--brand of automobile is
The major told him. Jed nodded.
"Hum . . . yes," he drawled. "I see. . . . I see."
Grover laughed. "I'll be hanged if I do!" he observed.
"Eh! . . . Well, I tell you; you sit down and let Babbie talk
Petunia to you a minute or two. I'll be right back."
He hurried into the back shop, closing the door after him. A
moment later Grover caught a glimpse of him crossing the back yard
and disappearing over the edge of the bluff.
"Where in the world has the fellow gone?" he soliloquized aloud,
amused although impatient. Barbara took it upon herself to answer.
Uncle Jed had left the caller in her charge and she felt her