Part 2 out of 6
Holway, and I give you public credit for it. It's the only course
that ain't full of breakers. Did you think of it yourself?'
"He colored up a little. 'Why, no, not exactly,' he says. 'The
fact is, the credit belongs to our new member, Mr. Gale.'
"'To JOTHAM?' says I, astonished.
"'Yes. He suggested my candidacy, as a compromise. Said that he,
for one, would be proud to vote for me. Mr. Gale seems thoroughly
repentant, a changed man. I am counting on him for great things in
"So the fuss seemed settled, thanks to the last person on earth
you'd expect would be peacemaker. But that afternoon I met Darius
Tompkins, Bassett's right-hand man.
"'Bailey,' says he, 'you're a Conservative, ain't you? You're for
Dan through thick and thin?'
"'Why!' says I, 'I understand Dan and Gaius are both out of it now,
and it's settled on Holway. Dan's promised to vote for him.'
"'HE has,' says Tompkins, with a wink, 'but the rest of us ain't.
We pledged our votes to Dan Bassett, and we ain't the kind to go
back on our word. Dan himself'll vote for Gabe; so'll Gaius and
his reg'lar tribe. That'll make twelve, countin' Holway's own.'
"'Make seventeen, you mean,' says I. 'Gaius and his crowd's
fifteen and Dan's sixteen and Gabe's seven--'
"He winked again, and interrupted me. 'You're countin' wrong, my
boy,' says he. 'Five of Gaius's folks come from the old billiard-
room gang. Just suppose somethin' happened to make that five vote,
on the quiet, for Bassett. Then--'
"A customer come in then, and Tompkins had to leave; but afore he
went he got me to one side and whispers:
"'Keep mum, old man, and vote straight for Dan. We'll show old
Holway that we can't be led around by the nose.'
"'Tompkins,' says I, 'I know your head well enough to be sartin
that it didn't work this out by itself. And why are you so sure of
the billiard roomers? Who put you up to this?'
"He rapped the side of his nose. 'The smartest politician in this
town,' says he, 'and the oldest--J. W. Gale, Esq.! S-s-sh-h!
Don't say nothin'.'
"I didn't say nothin'. I was past talk. And that evenin' as I
went past the billiard room on my way home, who should come out of
it but Gaius Ellis, and HE looked as happy as Tompkins had.
"Friday night that clubroom was filled. Every member was there,
and most of 'em had fetched their wives and families along to see
the fun. There was whisperin' and secrecy everywheres. Honorable
Gabe took the chair and makes announcements that the shebang is
open for business.
"Up gets Dave Bassett and all but sheds tears. He says that he
made up his mind to vote, not for himself, but for the founder and
patron of the club, the Honorable Atkinson Holway. He spread it
over Gabe thick as sugar on a youngster's cake. And when he set
down all hands applauded like fury. But I noticed that he hadn't
spoke for nary Conservative but himself.
"Then Gaius Ellis rises and sobs similar. He's stopped votin' for
himself, too. His ballot is for that grand and good man, Gabriel
Atkinson Holway, Esq. More applause and hurrahs.
"And then who should get up but Jotham Gale. He talks humble, like
a has-been that knows he's a back number, but he says it's his
privilege to cast his fust vote in that club for Mr. Holway, South
Orham's pride. Nobody was expectin' him to say anything, and the
cheers pretty nigh broke the winders.
"Gabe was turrible affected by the soft soap, you could see that.
He fairly sobbed as he sprinkled gratitude and acceptances. When
the agony was over, he says the votin' can begin.
"I cal'lated he expected somebody'd move to make it unanimous, but
they didn't. So the blank ballots was handed around, and the
pencils got busy. Gabe app'ints three tellers, Bassett and Ellis,
of course, for two--and the third, Jotham Gale.
"'As a compliment to our newest member,' says the chairman, smilin'
"When the votes was in the hat, the tellers retired to the
amusement room to count up. It took a long time. I see the
Conservatives and Progressives nudgin' each other and winkin' back
and forth. Five minutes, then ten, then fifteen.
"And all of a sudden the biggest row bu'st loose in that amusement
room that ever you heard. Rattlety--bang! Biff! Smash! The door
flew open, and in rolled Bassett and Ellis, all legs and arms.
Gabe and some of the rest hauled 'em apart and held 'em so, but the
language them two hove at each other was enough to bring down a
"'Gentlemen! gentlemen!' hollers poor Gabe. 'What in the world? I
am astounded! I--'
"'You miserable traitor!' shrieks Gaius, wavin' a fist at Dan.
"'You low-down hound!' whoops Dan back at him.
"'Silence!' bellers Gabe, poundin' thunder storms on the desk.
'Will some one explain why these maniacs are-- Ah, Mr. Gale--thank
goodness, YOU at least are sane!'
"Jotham walks to the front of the platform. He was holdin' the hat
and a slip of paper with the result set down on it.
"'Ladies and feller members,' says he, 'there's been some
surprisin' votin' done in this election. Things ain't gone as we
cal'lated they would, somehow. Mr. Holway, your election wa'n't
unanimous, after all.'
"The way he said it made most everybody think Gabe was elected,
anyhow, and I guess Holway thought so himself, for he smiled
forgivin' and says:
"'Never mind, Mr. Gale,' says he. 'A unanimous vote was perhaps
too much to expect. Go on.'
"'Yes,' says Jotham. 'Well, here's the way it stands. I'll read
it to you.'
"He fixes his specs and reads like this:
"'Number of votes cast, 32.'
"'Honorable Atkinson Holway has 4.'
"'WHAT?' gasps Stingy Gabe, fallin' into his chair.
"'Yes, sir,' says Jotham. 'It's a shame, I know, but it looks as
nobody voted for you, Mr. Holway, but yourself and me and Dan and
Gaius. To proceed:
"'Daniel Bassett has 9.'
"The Conservatives and their women folks fairly groaned out loud.
Tompkins jumped to his feet, but Jotham held up a hand.
"'Just a moment, D'rius,' he says. 'I ain't through yet.'
"'Gaius Ellis has 9.'
"Then 'twas the Progressives' turn to groan. The racket and hubbub
was gettin' louder all the time.
"'There's ten votes left,' goes on Jotham, 'and they bear the name
of Jotham W. Gale. I can't understand it, but it does appear that
I'm elected president of this 'ere club. Gentlemen, I thank you
for the honor, which is as great as 'tis unexpected.'
"Gabe and the Progressives and the Conservatives set and looked at
each other. And up jumps 'Bije Simmons, and calls for three cheers
for the new president.
"Nobody jined in them cheers but the old billiard room gang; they
did, though, every one of 'em, and Jotham smiled fatherly down on
"I s'pose there ain't no need of explainin'. Jotham had worked it
all, from the very fust. When the tie business begun and Gaius and
Dan was bribin' the billiard roomers to jine the club, 'twas him
that fixed how they should vote so's to keep the deadlock goin'.
'Twas him that put Bassett up to proposin' him as a member. 'Twas
him that suggested Gabe's comin' back to Gaius. 'Twas him that--
But what's the use? 'Twas him all along. He was IT.
"That night everybody but the billiard-room gang sent in their
resignation to that club. We refused to be bossed by such people.
Gabe resigned, too. He was disgusted with East Harniss and all
hands in it. He'd have took back the clubhouse, but he couldn't,
as the deed of gift was free and clear. But he swore he'd never
give it another cent.
"Folks thought that would end the thing, because it wouldn't be
self-supportin', but Jotham had different idees. He simply moved
his pool tables and truck up from the old shop, and now he's got
the finest place of the kind on the Cape, rent free.
"'I told you 'twould make a good billiard saloon, didn't I,
Bailey?' he says, chucklin'.
"'Jotham,' says I, 'of your kind you're a perfect wonder.'
"'Well,' says he, 'I diagnosed that men's club as sufferin' from
acute politics. I've been doctorin' that disease for a long time.
The trouble with you reformers,' he adds, solemn, 'is that, when it
comes to political doin's, you ain't practical.'
"As for Stingy Gabe, he shut up his fine house and moved to New
York. Said he was through with helpin' the moral tone.
"'When I die,' he says to me, 'if I go to the bad place I may start
in reformin' that. It don't need it no more'n South Orham does,
but 'twill be enough sight easier job.'
"And," concluded Captain Stitt, as soon as he could be heard above
the "Haw! haws!" caused by the Honorable Holway's final summing-up
of his native town, "I ain't so sure that he was greatly mistook.
What do you think, Sol?"
The depot master shook his head. "Don't know, Bailey," he
answered, dryly. "I'll have to visit both places 'fore I give an
opinion. I HAVE been to South Orham, but the neighborhood that
your friend Gabe compared it to I ain't seen--yet. I put on that
'yet,'" he added, with a wink, "'cause I knew Sim Phinney would if
Captain Bailey rose and covered a yawn with a plump hand.
"I believe I'll go over to Obed's and turn in," he said. "I'm
sleepy as a minister's horse tonight. You don't mind, do you,
"No-o," replied Mr. Gott, slowly. "No, I don't, 'special. I kind
of thought I'd run into the club a few minutes and see some of the
other fellers. But it ain't important--not very."
The "club" was one of the rooms over Mr. Higgins's store and post
office. It had been recently fitted up with chairs and tables from
its members' garrets and, when the depot and store were closed, was
a favorite gathering place of those reckless ones who cared to "set
up late"--that is, until eleven o'clock. Most of the men in town
belonged, but many, Captain Berry among them, visited the room but
"Checkers," said the depot master, referring to the "club's"
favorite game, "is too deliberately excitin' for me. To watch
Beriah Higgins and Ezra Weeks fightin' out a game of checkers is
like gettin' your feet froze in January and waitin' for spring to
come and thaw 'em out. It's a numbin' kind of dissipation."
But Obed Gott was a regular attendant at the "club," and to-night
he had a particular reason for wishing to be there. His cousin
noticed his hesitation and made haste to relieve his mind.
"That's all right, Obed," he said, "go to the club, by all means.
I ain't such a stranger at your house that I can't find my way to
bed without help. Good-night, Sim. Good-night, Issy. Cheer up;
maybe the Major's glassware IS priceless. So long, Cap'n Sol. See
you again some time tomorrer."
He and Mr. Gott departed. The depot master rose from his chair.
"Issy," he commanded, "shut up shop."
Issy obeyed, closing the windows and locking the front door.
Captain Sol himself locked the ticket case and put the cash till
into the small safe.
"That'll do, Is," said the Captain. "Good-night. Don't worry too
much over the Major's glass. I'll talk with him, myself. You
dream about pleasanter things--your girl, if you've got one."
That was a chance shot, but it struck Issy in the heart. Even
during his melancholy progress to and from Major Hardee's, the
vision of Gertie Higgins had danced before his greenish-blue eyes.
His freckles were engulfed in a surge of blushes as, with a
stammered "Night, Cap'n Berry," he hurried out into the moonlight.
The depot master blew out the lamps. "Come on, Sim," he said,
briefly. "Goin' to walk up with me, or was YOU goin' to the club?"
"Cal'late I'll trot along with you, if you don't mind. I'd just as
soon get home early and wrastle with the figures on that Williams
They left the depot, locked and dark, passed the "general store,"
where Mr. Higgins was putting out his lights prior to adjournment
to the "club" overhead, walked up Main Street to Cross Street,
turned and began climbing the hill. Simeon spoke several times but
his friend did not answer. A sudden change had come over him. The
good spirits with which he told of his adventure with Williams and
which had remained during Phinney's stay at the depot, were gone,
apparently. His face, in the moonlight, was grave and he strode
on, his hands in his pockets.
At the crest of the hill he stopped.
"Good-night, Sim," he said, shortly, and, turning, walked off.
The building mover gazed after him in surprise. The nearest way to
the Berry home was straight down Cross Street, on the other side of
the hill, to the Shore Road, and thence along that road for an
eighth of a mile. The Captain's usual course was just that. But
to-night he had taken the long route, the Hill Boulevard, which
made a wide curve before it descended to the road below.
Sim, who had had a shrewd suspicion concerning his friend's silence
and evident mental disturbance, stood still, looking and wondering.
Olive Edwards, Captain Berry's old sweetheart, lived on the
Boulevard. She was in trouble and the Captain knew it. He had
asked, that very evening, what she was going to do when forced to
move. Phinney could not tell him. Had he gone to find out for
himself? Was the mountain at last coming to Mohammed?
For some minutes Simeon remained where he was, thinking and
surmising. Then he, too, turned and walked cautiously up the
Boulevard. He passed the Williams mansion, its library windows
ablaze. He passed the twenty-five room "cottage" of the gentleman
from Chicago. Then he halted. Opposite him was the little Edwards
dwelling and shop. The curtains were up and there was a lamp
burning on the small counter. Beside the lamp, in a rocking chair,
sat Olive Edwards, the widow, sewing. As he gazed she dropped the
sewing in her lap, and raised her head.
Phinney saw how worn and sad she looked. And yet, how young,
considering her forty years and all she had endured and must
endure. She put her hand over her eyes, then removed it wearily.
A lump came in Simeon's throat. If he might only help her; if SOME
ONE might help her in her lonely misery.
And then, from where he stood in the shadow of the Chicago
gentleman's hedge, he saw a figure step from the shadows fifty feet
farther on. It was Captain Solomon Berry. He walked to the middle
of the road and halted, looking in at Olive. Phinney's heart gave
a jump. Was the Captain going into that house, going to HER, after
all these years? WAS the mountain--
But no. For a full minute the depot master stood, looking in at
the woman by the lamp. Then he jammed his hands into his pockets,
wheeled, and tramped rapidly off toward his home. Simeon Phinney
went home, also, but it was with a heavy heart that he sat down to
figure the cost of moving the Williams "pure Colonial" to its
The depot master and his friend, Mr. Phinney, were not the only
ones whose souls were troubled that evening. Obed Gott, as he
stood at the foot of the stairs leading to the meeting place of the
"club," was vexed and worried. His cousin, Captain Stitt, had gone
into the house and up to his room, and Obed, after seeing him
safely on his way, had returned to the club. But, instead of
entering immediately, he stood in the Higgins doorway, thinking,
and frowning as he thought. And the subject of his thought was the
idol of feminine East Harniss, the "old-school gentleman," Major
Cuthbertson Scott Hardee.
The Major first came to East Harniss one balmy morning in March--
came, and created an immediate sensation. "Redny" Blount, who
drives the "depot wagon," was wrestling with a sample trunk
belonging to the traveling representative of Messrs. Braid & Gimp,
of Boston, when he heard a voice--and such a voice--saying:
"Pardon me, my dear sir, but may I trouble you for one moment?"
Now "Redny" was not used to being addressed as "my dear sir." He
turned wonderingly, and saw the Major, in all his glory, standing
beside him. "Redny's" gaze took in the tall, slim figure in the
frock coat tightly buttoned; took in the white hair, worn just long
enough to touch the collar of the frock coat; the long, drooping
white mustache and imperial; the old-fashioned stock and open
collar; the black and white checked trousers; the gaiters; and,
last of all, the flat brimmed, carefully brushed, old-fashioned
silk hat. Mr. Blount gasped.
"Huh?" he said.
"Pardon me, my dear sir," repeated the Major, blandly, smoothly,
and with an air of--well, not condescension, but gracious
familiarity. "Will you be so extremely kind as to inform me
concerning the most direct route to the hotel or boarding house?"
The word "hotel" was the only part of this speech that struck home
to "Redny's" awed mind.
"Hotel?" he repeated, slowly. "Why, yes, sir. I'm goin' right
that way. If you'll git right into my barge I'll fetch you there
in ten minutes."
There was enough in this reply, and the manner in which it was
delivered, to have furnished the station idlers, in the ordinary
course of events, with matter for gossip and discussion for a week.
Mr. Blount had not addressed a person as "sir" since he went to
school. But no one thought of this; all were too much overcome by
the splendor of the Major's presence.
"Thank you," replied the Major. "Thank you. I am obliged to you,
sir. Augustus, you may place the baggage in this gentleman's
Augustus was an elderly negro, very black as to face and a trifle
shabby as to clothes, but with a shadow of his master's gentility,
like a reflected luster, pervading his person. He bowed low,
departed, and returned dragging a large, old style trunk, and
carrying a plump valise.
"Augustus," said the Major, "you may sit upon the seat with the
driver. That is," he added, courteously, "if Mr.--Mr.--"
"Blount," prompted the gratified "Redny."
"If Mr. Blount will be good enough to permit you to do so."
"Why, sartin. Jump right up. Giddap, you!"
There was but one passenger, besides the Major and Augustus, in the
"depot wagon" that morning. This passenger was Mrs. Polena Ginn,
who had been to Brockton on a visit. To Mrs. Polena the Major,
raising his hat in a manner that no native of East Harniss could
acquire by a lifetime of teaching, observed that it was a beautiful
morning. The flustered widow replied that it "was so." This was
the beginning of a conversation that lasted until the "Central
House" was reached, a conversation that left Polena impressed with
the idea that her new acquaintance was as near the pink of
perfection as mortal could be.
"It wa'n't his clothes, nuther," she told her brother, Obed Gott,
as they sat at the dinner table. "I don't know what 'twas, but you
could jest see that he was a gentleman all over. I wouldn't wonder
if he was one of them New York millionaires, like Mr. Williams--but
SO different. 'Redny' Blount says he see his name onto the hotel
register and 'twas 'Cuthbertson Scott Hardee.' Ain't that a tony
name for you? And his darky man called him 'Major.' I never see
sech manners on a livin' soul! Obed, I DO wish you'd stop eatin'
pie with a knife."
Under these pleasing circumstances did Major Cuthbertson Scott
Hardee make his first appearance in East Harniss, and the
reputation spread abroad by Mr. Blount and Mrs. Ginn was confirmed
as other prominent citizens met him, and fell under the spell. In
two short weeks he was the most popular and respected man in the
village. The Methodist minister said, at the Thursday evening
sociable, that "Major Hardee is a true type of the old-school
gentleman," whereupon Beriah Higgins, who was running for
selectman, and therefore felt obliged to be interested in all
educational matters, asked whereabouts that school was located, and
who was teaching it now.
It was a treat to see the Major stroll down Main Street to the post
office every pleasant spring morning. Coat buttoned tight, silk
hat the veriest trifle on one side, one glove on and its mate
carried with the cane in the other hand, and the buttonhole
bouquet--always the bouquet--as fresh and bright and jaunty as its
It seemed that every housekeeper whose dwelling happened to be
situated along that portion of the main road had business in the
front yard at the time of the Major's passing. There were steps to
be swept, or rugs to be shaken, or doorknobs to be polished just at
that particular time. Dialogues like the following interrupted the
triumphal progress at three minute intervals:
"Good-morning, Mrs. Sogberry. GOOD-morning. A delightful morning.
Busy as the proverbial bee once more, I see. I can never cease to
admire the industry and model neatness of the Massachusetts
housekeeper. And how is your charming daughter this morning?
Better, I trust?"
"Well, now, Major Hardee, I don't know. Abbie ain't so well's I
wish she was. She set up a spell yesterday, but the doctor says
she ain't gittin' along the way she'd ought to. I says to him,
s'I, 'Abbie ain't never what you'd call a reel hearty eater, but,
my land! when she don't eat NOTHIN',' I says--"
And so on and so on, with the Major always willing to listen,
always sympathetic, and always so charmingly courteous.
The Central House, East Harniss's sole hotel, and a very small one
at that, closed its doors on April 10th. Mr. Godfrey, its
proprietor, had come to the country for his health. He had been
inveigled, by an advertisement in a Boston paper, into buying the
Central House at East Harniss. It would afford him, so he
reasoned, light employment and a living. The employment was light
enough, but the living was lighter. He kept the Central House for
a year. Then he gave it up as a bad job and returned to the city.
"I might keep my health if I stayed," he admitted, in explaining
his position to Captain Berry, "but if I want to keep to what
little money I have left, I'd better go. Might as well die of
disease as starvation."
Everyone expected that the "gentleman of the old school" would go
also, but one evening Abner Payne, whose business is "real estate,
fire and life insurance, justice of the peace, and houses to let
and for sale," rushed into the post office to announce that the
Major had leased the "Gorham place," furnished, and intended to
make East Harniss his home.
"He likes the village so well he's goin' to stay here always,"
explained Abner. "Says he's been all 'round the world, but he
never see a place he liked so well's he does East Harniss. How's
that for high, hey? And you callin' it a one-horse town, Obed
The Major moved into the "Gorham place" the next morning. It--the
"place"--was an old-fashioned house on the hill, though not on Mr.
Williams' "Boulevard." It had been one of the finest mansions in
town once on a time, but had deteriorated rapidly since old Captain
Elijah Gorham died. Augustus carried the Major's baggage from the
hotel to the house. This was done very early and none of the
natives saw the transfer. There was some speculation as to how the
darky managed to carry the big trunk single-handed; one of two
persons asked Augustus this very question, but they received no
satisfactory answer. Augustus was habitually close-mouthed. Mr.
Godfrey left town that same morning on the first train.
The Major christened his new home "Silver-leaf Hall," because of
two great "silver-leaf" trees that stood by the front door. He had
some repairing, paper hanging and painting done, ordered a big
stock of groceries from the local dealer, and showed by his every
action that his stay in East Harniss was to be a lengthy one. He
hired a pew in the Methodist church, and joined the "club."
Augustus did the marketing for "Silver-leaf Hall," and had
evidently been promoted to the position of housekeeper.
The Major moved in April. It was now the third week in June and
his popularity was, if possible, more pronounced than ever. On
this particular, the evening of Captain Bailey Stitt's unexpected
arrival, Obed had been sitting by the tea table in his dining room
after supper, going over the account books of his paint, paper, and
oil store. His sister, Mrs. Polena Ginn, was washing dishes in the
"Wat's that letter you're readin', Obed?" she called from her post
by the sink.
"Nothin'," said her brother, gruffly, crumpling up the sheet of
note paper and jamming it into his pocket.
"My sakes! you're shorter'n pie crust to-night. What's the matter?
Anything gone wrong at the store?"
Silence again, only broken by the clatter of dishes. Then Polena
"Obed, when are you goin' to take me up to the clubroom so's I can
see that picture of Major Hardee that he presented the club with?
Everybody says it's just lovely. Sarah T. says it's perfectly
elegant, only not quite so handsome as the Major reelly is. She
says it don't flatter him none."
"Humph! Anybody'd think Hardee was some kind of a wonder, the way
you women folks go on 'bout him. How do you know but what he might
be a reg'lar fraud? Looks ain't everything."
"Well, I never! Obed Gott, I should think you'd be 'shamed of
yourself, talkin' that way. I shan't speak another word to you to-
night. I never see you act so unlikely. An old fraud! The idea!
That grand, noble man!"
Obed tried to make some sort of half-hearted apology, but his
sister wouldn't listen to it. Polena's dignity was touched. She
was a woman of consequence in East Harniss, was Polena. Her
husband had, at his death, left her ten thousand dollars in her own
right, and she owned bonds and had money in the Wellmouth Bank.
Nobody, not even her brother, was allowed to talk to her in that
To tell the truth, Obed was sorry he had offended his sister. He
had been throwing out hints of late as to the necessity of building
an addition to the paint and oil store, and had cast a longing look
upon a portion of Polena's ten thousand. The lady had not promised
to extend the financial aid, but she had gone so far as to say she
would think about it. So Obed regretted his insinuations against
the Major's integrity.
After a while he threw the account books upon the top of the chest
of drawers, put on his hat and coat and announced that he was going
over to the depot for a "spell." Polena did not deign to reply,
so, after repeating the observation, he went out and slammed the
Now, two hours later, as he stood in the doorway of the club, he
was debating what he should do in a certain matter. That matter
concerned Major Hardee and was, therefore, an extremely delicate
one. At length Mr. Gott climbed the narrow stairs and entered the
clubroom. It was blue with tobacco smoke.
The six or eight members present hailed him absently and went on
with their games of checkers or "seven-up." He attempted a game of
checkers and lost, which did not tend to make his temper any
sweeter. His ill nature was so apparent that Beriah Higgins, who
suffered from dyspepsia and consequent ill temper, finally
commented upon it.
"What's the matter with you, Obed?" he asked tartly. "Too much of
P'lena's mince pie?"
"No," grunted Mr. Gott shortly.
"What is it, then? Ain't paint sellin' well?"
"Sellin' well 'nough. I could sell a hundred ton of paint to-
morrow, more'n likely, but when it come to gittin' the money for
it, that would be another story. If folks would pay their bills
there wouldn't be no trouble."
"Who's stuck you now?"
"I don't s'pose anybody has, but it's just as bad when they don't
pay up. I've got to have money to keep a-goin' with. It don't
make no diff'rence if it's as good a customer as Major Hardee; he
ought to remember that we ain't all rich like him and--"
A general movement among all the club members interrupted him. The
checker players left their boards and came over; the "seven-up"
devotees dropped their cards and joined the circle.
"What was that you said?" asked Higgins, uneasily. "The Major
owin' you money, was it?"
"Oh, course I know he's all right and a fine man and all that,"
protested Obed, feeling himself put on the defensive. "But that
ain't it. What's a feller goin' to do when he needs the money and
gets a letter like that?"
He drew the crumpled sheet of note paper from his pocket, and threw
it on the table. Higgins picked it up and read it aloud, as
SILVERLEAF HALL, June 20th.
MY DEAR MR. GOTT: I am in receipt of your courteous communication
of recent date. I make it an unvarying rule to keep little ready
money here in East Harniss, preferring rather to let it remain at
interest in the financial institutions of the cities. Another rule
of mine, peculiar, I dare say--even eccentric, if you like--is
never to pay by check. I am expecting remittances from my
attorneys, however, and will then bear you in mind. Again thanking
you for your courtesy, and begging you to extend to your sister my
kindest regards, I remain, my dear sir,
Yours very respectfully,
CUTHBERTSON SCOTT HARDEE.
P. S.--I shall be delighted to have the pleasure of entertaining
your sister and yourself at dinner at the hall on any date
agreeable to you. Kindly let me hear from you regarding this at
your earliest convenience. I must insist upon this privilege, so
do not disappoint me, I beg.
The reception accorded this most gentlemanly epistle was peculiar.
Mr. Higgins laid it upon the table and put his hand into his own
pocket. So did Ezra Weeks, the butcher; Caleb Small, the dry goods
dealer; "Hen" Leadbetter, the livery stable keeper; "Bash" Taylor,
the milkman, and three or four others. And, wonder of wonders,
each produced a sheet of note paper exactly like Obed's.
They spread them out on the table. The dates were, of course,
different, and they differed in other minor particulars, but in the
main they were exactly alike. And each one of them ended with an
invitation to dinner.
The members of the club looked at each other in amazement. Higgins
was the first to speak.
"Godfrey mighty!" he exclaimed. "Say, this is funny, ain't it?
It's more'n funny; it's queer! By jimmy, it's more'n that--it's
serious! Look here, fellers; is there anybody in this crowd that
the Major's paid for anything any time?"
They waited. No one spoke. Then, with one impulse, every face
swung about and looked up to where, upon the wall, hung the life-
size photograph of the Major, dignified, gracious, and gilt-framed.
It had been presented to the club two months before by Cuthbertson
Scott Hardee, himself.
"Ike--Ike Peters," said Higgins. "Say, Ike--has he ever paid you
for havin' that took?"
Mr. Peters, who was the town photographer, reddened, hesitated, and
then stammered, "Why, no, he ain't, yet."
"Humph!" grunted Higgins. No one else said anything. One or two
took out pocket memorandum books and went over some figures entered
therein. Judging by their faces the results of these calculations
were not pleasing. Obed was the first to break the painful
"Well!" he exclaimed, sarcastically; "ain't nobody got nothin' to
say? If they ain't, I have. Or, at any rate, I've got somethin'
to do." And he rose and started to put on his coat.
"Hi! hold on a minute, Obed, you loon!" cried Higgins. "Where are
"I'm goin' to put my bill in Squire Baker's hands for c'lection,
and I'm goin' to do it tonight, too."
He was on his way to the door, but two or three ran to stop him.
"Don't be a fool, Obed," said Higgins. "Don't go off ha'f cocked.
Maybe we're gittin' scared about nothin'. We don't know but we'll
get every cent that's owed us."
"Don't KNOW! Well, I ain't goin' to wait to find out. What makes
me b'ilin' is to think how we've set still and let a man that we
never saw afore last March, and don't know one blessed thing about,
run up bills and RUN 'em up. How we come to be such everlastin'
fools I don't see! What did we let him have the stuff for? Why
didn't we make him pay? I--"
"Now see here, Obed Gott," broke in Weeks, the butcher, "you know
why just as well as we do. Why, blast it!" he added earnestly, "if
he was to come into my shop to-morrow and tip that old high hat of
his, and smile and say 'twas a fine mornin and 'How's the good lady
to-day?' and all that, he'd get ha'f the meat there was in the
place, and I wouldn't say 'Boo'! I jest couldn't, that's all."
This frank statement was received with approving nods and a chorus
of muttered "That's so's."
"It looks to me this way," declared Higgins. "If the Major's all
right, he's a mighty good customer for all of us. If he ain't all
right, we've got to find it out, but we're in too deep to run resks
of gettin' him mad 'fore we know for sure. Let's think it over for
a week. Inside of that time some of us'll hint to him, polite but
firm, you understand, that we've got to have something on account.
A week from to-night we'll meet in the back room of my store, talk
it over and decide what to do. What do you say?"
Everybody but Obed agreed. He declared that he had lost money
enough and wasn't going to be a fool any longer. The others argued
with him patiently for a while and then Leadbetter, the livery
stable keeper, said sharply:
"See here, Obe! You ain't the only one in this. How much does the
Major owe you?"
"Pretty nigh twenty dollars."
"Humph! You're lucky. He owes me over thirty, and I guess Higgins
is worse off than any of us. Ain't that so, Beriah?"
"About seventy, even money," answered the grocer, shortly. "No
use, Obed, we've got to hang together. Wait a week and then see.
And, fellers," he added, "don't tell a soul about this business,
'specially the women folks. There ain't a woman nor girl in this
town that don't think Major Hardee's an A1, gold-plated saint, and
twouldn't be safe to break the spell on a guess."
Obed reached home even more disgruntled than when he left it. He
sat up until after twelve, thinking and smoking, and when he went
to bed he had a brilliant idea. The next morning he wrote a letter
and posted it.
A BABY AND A ROBBERY
The morning train for Boston, at that season of the year, reached
East Harniss at five minutes to six, an "ungodly hour," according
to the irascible Mr. Ogden Williams, who, in company with some of
his wealthy friends, the summer residents, was petitioning the
railroad company for a change in the time-table. When Captain Sol
Berry, the depot master, walked briskly down Main Street the
morning following Mr. Gott's eventful evening at the club, the
hands of the clock on the Methodist church tower indicated that the
time was twenty minutes to six.
Issy McKay was already at the depot, the doors of which were open.
Captain Sol entered the waiting room and unlocked the ticket rack
and the little safe. Issy, languidly toying with the broom on the
front platform, paused in his pretense of sweeping and awaited
permission to go home for breakfast. It came, in characteristic
"How's the salt air affectin' your appetite, Is?" asked the
Issy, who, being intensely serious by nature, was uneasy when he
suspected the presence of a joke, confusedly stammered that he
cal'lated his appetite was all right.
"Payin' for the Major's glass ain't kept you awake worryin', has
"No-o, sir. I--"
"P'r'aps you thought he was the one to 'do the worryin', hey?"
"I--I don't know."
"Well, what's your folks goin' to have to eat this mornin'?"
Issy admitted his belief that fried clams were to be the breakfast.
"So? Clams? Is, did you ever read the soap advertisement about
not bein' a clam?"
"I--I don't know's I ever did. No, sir."
"All right; I only called your attention to it as a warnin', that's
all. When anybody eats as many clams as you do there's a fair
chance of his turnin' into one. Now clear out, and don't stay so
long at breakfast that you can't get back in time for dinner.
Issy trotted. The depot master seated himself by the door of the
ticket office and fell into a reverie. It was interrupted by the
entrance of Hiram Baker. Captain Hiram was an ex-fishing skipper,
fifty-five years of age, who, with his wife, Sophronia, and their
infant son, Hiram Joash Baker, lived in a small, old-fashioned
house at the other end of the village, near the shore. Captain
Hiram, having retired from the sea, got his living, such as it was,
from his string of fish traps, or "weirs."
The depot master hailed the new arrival heartily.
"Hello, there, Hiram!" he cried, rising from his chair. "Glad to
see you once in a while. Ain't goin' to leave us, are you? Not
goin' abroad for your health, or anything of that kind, hey?"
Captain Baker laughed.
"No," he answered. "No further abroad than Hyannis. And I'll be
back from there tonight, if the Lord's willin' and the cars don't
get off the track. Give me a round trip ticket, will you, Sol?"
The depot master retired to the office, returning with the desired
ticket. Captain Hiram counted out the price from a confused mass
of coppers and silver, emptied into his hand from a blackened
leather purse, tied with a string.
"How's Sophrony?" asked the depot master. "Pretty smart, I hope."
"Yup, she's smart. Has to be to keep up with the rest of the
family--'specially the youngest."
He chuckled. His friend laughed in sympathy.
"The youngest is the most important of all, I s'pose," he observed.
"How IS the junior partner of H. Baker and Son?"
"He ain't a silent partner, I'll swear to that. Honest, Sol, I
b'lieve my 'Dusenberry' is the cutest young one outside of a show.
I said so only yesterday to Mr. Hilton, the minister. I did, and I
"Well, we're all gettin' ready to celebrate his birthday. Ho, ho!"
This was a standard joke and was so recognized and honored. A baby
born on the Fourth of July is sure of a national celebration of his
birthday. And to Captain Baker and his wife, no celebration,
however widespread, could do justice to the importance of the
occasion. When, to answer the heart longings of the child-loving
couple married many years, the baby came, he was accepted as a
special dispensation of Providence and valued accordingly.
"He's got a real nice voice, Hiram," said Sophronia, gazing proudly
at the prodigy, who, clutched gingerly in his father's big hands,
was screaming his little red face black. "I shouldn't wonder if he
grew up to sing in the choir."
"That's the kind of voice to make a fo'mast hand step lively!"
declared Hiram. "You'll see this boy on the quarter deck of a
clipper one of these days."
Naming him was a portentous proceeding and one not to be lightly
gone about. Sophronia, who was a Methodist by descent and early
confirmation, was of the opinion that the child should have a Bible
The Captain respected his wife's wishes, but put in an ardent plea
for his own name, Hiram.
"There's been a Hiram Baker in our family ever since Noah h'isted
the main-r'yal on the ark," he declared. "I'd kinder like to keep
the procession a-goin'."
They compromised by agreeing to make the baby's Christian name
Hiram and to add a middle name selected at random from the
Scriptures. The big, rickety family Bible was taken from the
center table and opened with shaking fingers by Mrs. Baker. She
read aloud the first sentence that met her eye: "The son of Joash."
"Joash!" sneered her husband. "You ain't goin' to cruelize him
with that name, be you?"
"Hiram Baker, do you dare to fly in the face of Scriptur'?"
"All right! Have it your own way. Go to sleep now, Hiram Joash,
while I sing 'Storm along, John,' to you."
Little Hiram Joash punched the minister's face with his fat fist
when he was christened, to the great scandal of his mother and the
ill-concealed delight of his father.
"Can't blame the child none," declared the Captain. "I'd punch
anybody that christened a middle name like that onto me."
But, in spite of his name, the baby grew and prospered. He fell
out of his crib, of course, the moment that he was able, and barked
his shins over the big shells by the what-not in the parlor the
first time that he essayed to creep. He teethed with more or less
tribulation, and once upset the household by an attack of the croup.
They gave up calling him by his first name, because of the
Captain's invariably answering when the baby was wanted and not
answering when he himself was wanted. Sophronia would have liked
to call him Joash, but her husband wouldn't hear of it. At length
the father took to calling him "Dusenberry," and this nickname was
adopted under protest.
Captain Hiram sang the baby to sleep every night. There were three
songs in the Captain's repertoire. The first was a chanty with a
John, storm along, storm along, John,
Ain't I glad my day's work's done.
The second was the "Bowline Song."
Haul on the bowline, the 'Phrony is a-rollin',
Haul on the bowline! the bowline HAUL!
At the "haul!" the Captain's foot would come down with a thump.
Almost the first word little Hiram Joash learned was "haul!" He
used to shout it and kick his father vigorously in the vest.
These were fair-weather songs. Captain Hiram sang them when
everything was going smoothly. The "Bowline Song" indicated that
he was feeling particularly jubilant. He had another that he sang
when he was worried. It was a lugubrious ditty, with a refrain
Oh, sailor boy, sailor boy, 'neath the wild billow,
Thy grave is yawnin' and waitin' for thee.
He sang this during the worst of the teething period, and, later,
when the junior partner wrestled with the whooping cough. You
could always tell the state of the baby's health by the Captain's
choice of songs.
Meanwhile Dusenberry grew and prospered. He learned to walk and to
talk, after his own peculiar fashion, and, at the mature age of two
years and six months, formally shipped as first mate aboard his
father's dory. His duties in this responsible position were to sit
in the stern, securely fastened by a strap, while the Captain and
his two assistants rowed out over the bar to haul the nets of the
deep water fish weir.
The first mate gave the orders, "All hands on deck! 'Tand by to
det ship under way!" There was no "sogerin'" aboard the Hiram
Junior--that was the dory's name--while the first officer had
Captain Hiram, always ready to talk of the wonderful baby, told the
depot master of the youngster's latest achievement, which was to
get the cover off the butter firkin in the pantry and cover himself
with butter from head to heel.
"Ho, ho, ho!" he roared, delightedly, "when Sophrony caught him at
it, what do you s'pose he said? Said he was playin' he was a slice
of bread and was spreadin' himself. Haw! haw!"
Captain Sol laughed in sympathy.
"But he didn't mean no harm by it," explained the proud father.
"He's got the tenderest little heart in the world. When he found
his ma felt bad he bust out cryin' and said he'd scrape it all off
again and when it come prayer time he'd tell God who did it, so
He'd know 'twa'n't mother that wasted the nice butter. What do you
think of that?"
"No use talkin', Hiram," said the depot master, "that's the kind of
boy to have."
"You bet you! Hello! here's the train. On time, for a wonder.
See you later, Sol. You take my advice, get married and have a boy
of your own. Nothin' like one for solid comfort."
The train was coming and they went out to meet it. The only
passenger to alight was Mr. Barzilla Wingate, whose arrival had
been foretold by Bailey Stitt the previous evening. Barzilla was
part owner of a good-sized summer hotel at Wellmouth Neck. He and
the depot master were old friends.
After the train had gone Wingate and Captain Sol entered the
station together. The Captain had insisted that his friend come
home with him to breakfast, instead of going to the hotel. After
some persuasion Barzilla agreed. So they sat down to await Issy's
arrival. The depot master could not leave the station until the
"Well, Barzilla," asked Captain Sol, "what's the newest craze over
to the hotel?"
"The newest," said Wingate, with a grin, "is automobiles."
"Automobiles? Why, I thought 'twas baseball."
"Baseball was last summer. We had a championship team then. Yes,
sir, we won out, though for a spell it looked pretty dubious. But
baseball's an old story. We've had football since, and now--"
"Wait a minute! Football? Why, now I do remember. You had a
football team there and--and wa'n't there somethin' queer, some
sort of a--a robbery, or stealin', or swindlin' connected with it?
Seems's if I'd heard somethin' like that."
Mr. Wingate looked his friend over, winked, and asked a question.
"Sol," he said, "you ain't forgot how to keep a secret?"
The depot master smiled. "I guess not," he said.
"Well, then, I'm goin' to trust you with one. I'm goin' to tell
you the whole business about that robbin'. It's all mixed up with
football and millionaires and things--and it's a dead secret, the
truth of it. So when I tell you it mustn't go no further.
"You see," he went on, "it was late into August when Peter T. was
took down with the inspiration. Not that there was anything
'specially new in his bein' took. He was subject to them seizures,
Peter was, and every time they broke out in a fresh place. The Old
Home House itself was one of his inspirations, so was the hirin' of
college waiters, the openin' of the two 'Annex' cottages, the South
Shore Weather Bureau, and a whole lot more. Sometimes, as in the
weather-bureau foolishness, the disease left him and t'other two
patients--meanin' me and Cap'n Jonadab--pretty weak in the courage,
and wasted in the pocketbook; but gen'rally they turned out good,
and our systems and bank accounts was more healthy than normal.
One of Peter T.'s inspirations was consider'ble like typhoid fever--
if you did get over it, you felt better for havin' had it.
"This time the attack was in the shape of a 'supplementary season.'
'Twas Peter's idea that shuttin' up the Old Home the fust week in
September was altogether too soon.
"'What's the use of quittin',' says he, 'while there's bait left
and the fish are bitin'? Why not keep her goin' through September
and October? Two or three ads--MY ads--in the papers, hintin' that
the ducks and wild geese are beginnin' to keep the boarders awake
by roostin' in the back yard and hollerin' at night--two or three
of them, and we'll have gunners here by the regiment. Other summer
hotels do it, the Wapatomac House and the rest, so why not us? It
hurts my conscience to see good money gettin' past the door 'count
of the "Not at Home" sign hung on the knob. What d'you say,
partners?' says he.
"Well, we had consider'ble to say, partic'lar Cap'n Jonadab. 'Twas
too risky and too expensive. Gunnin' was all right except for one
thing--that is, that there wa'n't none wuth mentionin'.
"'Ducks are scurser round here than Democrats in a Vermont town-
meetin',' growled the Cap'n. 'And as for geese! How long has it
been since you see a goose, Barzilla?'
"'Land knows!' says I. 'I can remember as fur back as the fust
time Washy Sparrow left off workin', but I can't--'
"Brown told us to shut up. Did we cal'late he didn't know what he
was talkin' about?
"'I can see two geese right now,' he snaps; 'but they're so old and
leather-headed you couldn't shoot an idea into their brains with a
cannon. Gunnin' ain't the whole thing. My makin' a noise like a
duck is only to get the would-be Teddy Roosevelts headed for this
neck of the woods. After they get here, it's up to us to keep 'em.
And I can think of as many ways to do that as the Cap'n can of
savin' a quarter. Our baseball team's been a success, ain't it?
Sure thing! Then why not a football team? Parker says he'll get
it together, and coach and cap'n it, too. And Robinson and his
daughter have agreed to stay till October fifteenth. So there's a
"'Twas a start, and a pretty good one. The Robinsons had come to
the Old Home about the fust of August, and they was our star
boarders. 'G. W. Robinson' was the old man's name as entered on
the hotel log, and his daughter answered to the hail of 'Grace'--
that is, when she took a notion to answer at all. The Robinsons
was what Peter T. called 'exclusive.' They didn't mix much with
the rest of the bunch, but kept to themselves in their rooms,
partic'lar when a fresh net full of boarders was hauled aboard.
Then they seemed to take an observation of every arrival afore they
mingled; questioned the pedigree and statistics of all hands, and
acted mighty suspicious.
"The only thing that really stirred Papa Robinson up and got him
excited and friendly was baseball and boat racin'. He was an old
sport, that was plain, the only real plain thing about him; the
rest was mystery. As for Grace, she wa'n't plain by a good sight,
bein' what Brown called a 'peach.' She could have had every single
male in tow if she'd wanted 'em. Apparently she didn't want em,
preferrin' to be lonesome and sad and interestin'. Yes, sir, there
was a mystery about them Robinsons, and even Peter T. give in to
"'If 'twas anybody else,' says he, 'I'd say the old man was a
crook, down here hidin' from the police. But he's too rich for
that, and always has been. He ain't any fly-by-night. I can tell
the real article without lookin' for the "sterlin'" mark on the
handle. But I'll bet all the cold-storage eggs in the hotel
against the henyard--and that's big odds--that he wa'n't christened
Robinson. And his face is familiar to me. I've seen it somewhere,
either in print or in person. I wish I knew where.'
"So if the Robinsons had agreed to stay--them and their two
servants--that was a big help, as Brown said. And Parker would
help, too, though we agreed there wa'n't no mystery about him. He
was a big, broad-shouldered young feller just out of college
somewheres, who had drifted our way the fortni't after the
Robinsons came, with a reputation for athletics and a leanin'
toward cigarettes and Miss Grace. She leaned a little, too, but
hers wa'n't so much of a bend as his was. He was dead gone on her,
and if she'd have decided to stay under water, he'd have ducked
likewise. 'Twas easy enough to see why HE believed in a
"Me and Jonadab argued it out with Peter, and finally we met
halfway, so's to speak. We wouldn't keep the whole shebang open,
but we'd shut up everything but one Annex cottage, and advertise
that as a Gunner's Retreat. So we done it.
"And it worked. Heavens to Betsy--yes! It worked so well that by
the second week in September we had to open t'other Annex. The
gunnin' was bad, but Peter's ads fetched the would-be's, and his
'excursions' and picnics and the football team held 'em. The
football team especial. Parker cap'ned that, and, from the gunnin'
crew and the waiters and some fishermen in the village, he dug up
an eleven that showed symptoms of playin' the game. We played the
Trumet High School, and beat it, thanks to Parker, and that tickled
Pa Robinson so that he bought a two-handled silver soup tureen--
'lovin' cup,' he called it--and agreed to give it to the team round
about that won the most of the series. So the series was arranged,
the Old Home House crowd and the Wapatomac House eleven and three
high-school gangs bein' in it. And 'twas practice, practice,
practice, from then on.
"When we opened the second Annex, the question of help got serious.
Most of our college waiters had gone back to school, and we was
pretty shy of servants. So we put some extry advertisin' in the
Cape weeklies, and trusted in Providence.
"The evenin' followin' the ad in the weeklies, I was settin' smokin'
on the back piazza of the shut-up main hotel, when I heard the gate
click and somebody crunchin' along the clam-shell path. I sung
out: 'Ahoy, there!' and the cruncher, whoever he was, come my way.
Then I made out that he was a tall young chap, with his hands in
"'Good evenin',' says he. 'Is this Mr. Brown?'
"'Thankin' you for the compliment, it ain't,' I says. 'My name's
"'Oh!' says he. 'Is that so? I've heard father speak of you, Mr.
Wingate. He is Solomon Bearse, of West Ostable. I think you know
"Know him? Everybody on the Cape knows Sol Bearse; by reputation,
anyhow. He's the richest, meanest old cranberry grower and
coastin'-fleet owner in these parts.
"'Is Sol Bearse your dad?' I asks, astonished. 'Why, then, you
must be Gus?'
"'No,' he says. 'I'm the other one--Fred.'
"'Oh, the college one. The one who's goin' to be a lawyer.'
"'Well, yes--and no,' says he. 'I WAS the college one, as you call
it, but I'm not goin' to be a lawyer. Father and I have had some
talk on that subject, and I think we've settled it. I--well, just
at present, I'm not sure what I'm goin' to be. That's what I've
come to you for. I saw your ad in the Item, and--I want a job.'
"I was set all aback, and left with my canvas flappin', as you
might say. Sol Bearse's boy huntin' a job in a hotel kitchen!
Soon's I could fetch a whole breath, I wanted partic'lars. He give
'em to me.
"Seems he'd been sent out to one of the colleges in the Middle West
by his dad, who was dead set on havin' a lawyer in the family. But
the more he studied, the less he hankered for law. What he wanted
to be was a literature--a book-agent or a poet, or some such
foolishness. Old Sol, havin' no more use for a poet than he had
for a poor relation, was red hot in a minute. Was this what he'd
been droppin' good money in the education collection box for? Was
this--etcetery and so on. He'd be--what the church folks say he
will be--if Fred don't go in for law. Fred, he comes back that
he'll be the same if he does. So they disowned each other by
mutual consent, as the Irishman said, and the boy marches out of
the front door, bag and baggage. And, as the poetry market seemed
to be sort of overly supplied at the present time, he decided he
must do somethin' to earn a dollar, and, seein' our ad, he comes to
Wellmouth Port and the Old Home.
"'But look here,' says I, 'we ain't got no job for a literary. We
need fellers to pass pie and wash dishes. And THAT ain't no poem.'
"Well, he thought perhaps he could help make up advertisin'.
"'You can't,' I told him. 'One time, when Peter T. Brown was away,
me and Cap'n Jonadab cal'lated that a poetry advertisement would be
a good idee and we managed to shake out ten lines or so. It begun:
"When you're feelin' tired and pale
To the Old Home House you ought to come without fail."
"'We thought 'twas pretty slick, but we never got but one answer,
and that was a circular from one of them correspondence schools of
authors, sayin' they'd let us in on a course at cut rates. And the
next thing we knew we see that poem in the joke page of a Boston
paper. I never--'
"He laughed, quiet and sorrowful. He had the quietest way of
speakin', anyhow, and his voice was a lovely tenor. To hear it
purrin' out of his big, tall body was as unexpected as a hymn tune
in a cent-in-the-slot talkin' machine.
"'Too bad,' he says. 'As a waiter, I'm afraid--'
"Just then the door of one of the Annex houses opened sudden, and
there stood Grace Robinson. The light behind her showed her up
plain as could be. I heard Fred Bearse make a kind of gaspin'
noise in his throat.
"'What a lovely night!' she says, half to herself. Then she calls:
'Papa, dear, you really ought to see the stars.'
"Old man Robinson, who I judged was in the settin' room, snarled
out somethin' which wa'n't no compliment to the stars. Then he
ordered her to come in afore she catched cold. She sighed and
obeyed orders, shuttin' the door astern of her. Next thing I knew
that literary tenor grabbed my arm--'twa'n't no canary-bird grip,
"'Who was that?' he whispers, eager.
"I told him. 'That's the name they give,' says I, 'but we have
doubts about its bein' the real one. You see, there's some mystery
about them Robinsons, and--'
"'I'll take that waiter's place,' he says, quick. 'Shall I go
right in and begin now? Don't stop to argue, man; I say I'll take
"And he did take it by main strength, pretty nigh. Every time I'd
open my mouth he'd shut it up, and at last I give in, and showed
him where he could sleep.
"'You turn out at five sharp,' I told him. 'And you needn't bother
to write no poems while you're dressin', neither.'
"'Good night,' he answers, brisk. 'Go, will you, please? I want
"I went. 'Tain't until an hour later that I remembered he hadn't
asked one word concernin' the wages. And next mornin' he comes to
me and suggests that perhaps 'twould be as well if I didn't tell
his real name. He was pretty sure he'd been away schoolin' so long
that he wouldn't be recognized. 'And incognitos seem to be
fashionable here,' he purrs, soft and gentle.
"I wouldn't know an incognito if I stepped on one, but the tenor
voice of him kind of made me sick.
"'All right,' I snaps, sarcastic. 'Suppose I call you "Willie."
How'll that do?'
"'Do as well as anything, I guess,' he says. Didn't make no odds
to him. If I'd have called him 'Maud,' he'd have been satisfied.
"He waited in Annex Number Two, which was skippered by Cap'n
Jonadab. And, for a poet, he done pretty well, so the Cap'n said.
"'But say, Barzilla,' asks Jonadab, 'does that Willie thing know
"'Guess not,' I says. But, thinkin' of the way he'd acted when the
girl come to the door: 'Why?'
"'Oh, nothin' much. Only when he come in with the doughnuts the
fust mornin' at breakfast, I thought Grace sort of jumped and
looked funny. Anyhow, she didn't eat nothin' after that. P'r'aps
that was on account of her bein' out sailin' the day afore,
"I said I cal'lated that was it, but all the same I was interested.
And when, a day or so later, I see Grace and Willie talkin'
together earnest, out back of the kitchen, I was more so. But I
never said nothin'. I've been seafarin' long enough to know when
to keep my main hatch closed.
"The supplementary season dragged along, but it wa'n't quite the
success it looked like at the start. The gunnin' that year was
even worse than usual, and excursions and picnics in late September
ain't all joy, by no manner of means. We shut up the second Annex
at the end of the month, and transferred the help to Number One.
Precious few new boarders come, and a good many of the old ones
quit. Them that did stay, stayed on account of the football. We
was edgin' up toward the end of the series, and our team and the
Wapatomac crowd was neck and neck. It looked as if the final game
between them and us, over on their grounds, would settle who'd have
the soup tureen.
"Pa Robinson and Parker had been quite interested in Willie when he
fust come. They thought he might play with the eleven, you see.
But he wouldn't. Set his foot right down.
"'I don't care for athletics,' he says, mild but firm. 'They used
to interest me somewhat, but not now.'
"The old man was crazy. He'd heard about Willie's literature
leanin's, and he give out that he'd never see a writer yet that
wa'n't a 'sissy.' Wanted us to fire Bearse right off, but we kept
him, thanks to me. If he'd seen the 'sissy' kick the ball once,
same as I did, it might have changed his mind some. He was passin'
along the end of the field when the gang was practicin', and the
ball come his way. He caught it on the fly, and sent it back with
his toe. It went a mile, seemed so, whirlin' and whizzin'. Willie
never even looked to see where it went; just kept on his course for
"The big sensation hit us on the fifth of October, right after
supper. Me and Peter T. and Jonadab was in the office, when down
comes Henry, old Robinson's man servant, white as a sheet and
wringin' his hands distracted.
"'Oh, I say, Mr. Brown!' says he, shakin' all over like a
quicksand. 'Oh, Mr. Brown, sir! Will you come right up to Mr.
Sterz--I mean Mr. Robinson's room, please, sir! 'E wants to see
you gentlemen special. 'Urry, please! 'Urry!'
"So we ''urried,' wonderin' what on earth was the matter. And when
we got to the Robinson rooms, there was Grace, lookin' awful pale,
and the old man himself ragin' up and down like a horse mack'rel in
a fish weir.
"Soon as papa sees us, he jumped up in the air, so's to speak, and
when he lit 'twas right on our necks. His daughter, who seemed to
be the sanest one in the lot, run and shut the door.
"'Look here, you!' raved the old gent, shakin' both fists under
Peter T.'s nose. 'Didn't you tell me this was a respectable hotel?
And ain't we payin' for respectability?'
"Peter admitted it, bein' too much set back to argue, I cal'late.
"'Yes!' rages Robinson. 'We pay enough for all the respectability
in this state. And yet, by the livin' Moses! I can't go out of my
room to spoil my digestion with your cussed dried-apple pie, but
what I'm robbed!'
"'Robbed!' the three of us gurgles in chorus.
"'Yes, sir! Robbed! Robbed! ROBBED! What do you think I came
here for? And why do I stay here all this time? 'Cause I LIKE it?
'Cause I can't afford a better place? No, sir! By the great horn
spoon! I come here because I thought in this forsaken hole I could
get lost and be safe. And now--'
"He tore around like a water spout, Grace trying to calm him, and
Henry and Suzette, the maid, groanin' and sobbin' accompaniments in
the corner. I looked at the dresser. There was silver-backed
brushes and all sorts of expensive doodads spread out loose, and
Miss Robinson's watch and a di'mond ring, and a few other
knickknacks. I couldn't imagine a thief's leavin' all that truck,
and I said so.
"'Them?' sputters Pa, frantic. 'What the brimstone blazes do you
think I care for them? I could buy that sort of stuff by the car-
load, if I wanted to. But what's been stole is-- Oh, get out and
leave me alone! You're no good, the lot of you!'
"'Father has had a valuable paper stolen from him,' explains Grace.
'A very valuable paper.'
"'Valuable!' howls her dad. 'VALUABLE! Why, if Gordon and his
gang get that paper, they've got ME, that's all. Their suit's as
good as won, and I know it. And to think that I've kept it safe up
to within a month of the trial, and now--Grace Sterzer, you stop
pattin' my head. I'm no pussy-cat! By the--' And so on,
"When he called his daughter Sterzer, instead of Robinson, I
cal'lated he was loony, sure enough. But Peter T. slapped his leg.
"'Oh!' he says, as if he'd seen a light all to once. 'Ah, NOW I
begin to get wise. I knew your face was-- See here, Mr. Sterzer--
Mr. Gabriel Sterzer--don't you think we'd better have a real, plain
talk on this matter? Let's get down to tacks. Was the paper you
lost something to do with the Sterzer-Gordon lawsuit? The Aluminum
Trust case, you know?'
"The old man stopped dancin', stared at him hard, and then set down
and wiped his forehead.
"'Something to DO with it?' he groans. 'Why, you idiot, it was IT!
If Gordon's lawyers get that paper--and they've been after it for a
year--then the fat's all in the fire. There's nothin' left for me
to do but compromise.'
"When Peter T. mentioned the name of Gabriel Sterzer, me and
Jonadab begun to see a light, too. 'Course you remember the bust-
up of the Aluminum Trust--everybody does. The papers was full of
it. There'd been a row among the two leadin' stockholders, Gabe
Sterzer and 'Major' Gordon. Them two double-back-action
millionaires practically owned the trust, and the state 'twas in,
and the politics of that state, and all the politicians. Each of
'em run three or four banks of their own, and a couple of
newspapers, and other things, till you couldn't rest. Then they
had the row, and Gabe had took his playthings and gone home, as you
might say. Among the playthings was a majority of the stock, and
the Major had sued for it. The suit, with pictures of the leadin'
characters and the lawyers and all, had been spread-eagled in the
papers everywheres. No wonder 'Robinson's' face was familiar.
"But it seemed that Sterzer had held the trump card in the shape of
the original agreement between him and Gordon. And he hung on to
it like the Old Scratch to a fiddler. Gordon and his crowd had
done everything, short of murder, to get it; hired folks to steal
it, and so on, because, once they DID get it, Gabe hadn't a leg to
stand on--he'd have to divide equal, which wa'n't his desires, by a
good sight. The Sterzer lawyers had wanted him to leave it in
their charge, but no--he knew too much for that. The pig-headed
old fool had carted it with him wherever he went, and him and his
daughter had come to the Old Home House because he figgered nobody
would think of their bein' in such an out-of-the-way place as that.
But they HAD thought of it. Anyhow, the paper was gone.
"'But Mr. Robinzer--Sterson, I mean--' cut in Cap'n Jonadab, 'you
could have 'em took up for stealin', couldn't you? They wouldn't
"''Course they'd dare! S'pose they don't know I wouldn't have that
agreement get in the papers? Dare! They'd dare anything. If they
get away with it, by hook or crook, all I can do is haul in my
horns and compromise. If they've got that paper, the suit never
comes to trial.'
"'Well, they ain't got it yet,' says Peter, decided. 'Whoever
stole the thing is right here in this boardin'-house, and it's up
to us to see that they stay here. Barzilla, you take care of the
mail. No letters must go out to-night. Jonadab, you set up and
watch all hands, help and all. Nobody must leave this place, if we
have to tie em. And I'll keep a gen'ral overseein' of the whole
thing, till we get a detective. And--if you'll stand the waybill,
Mr. Sterzer--we'll have the best Pinkerton in Boston down here in
three hours by special train. By the way, are you sure the thing
IS lifted? Where was it?'
"Old Gabe kind of colored up, and give in that 'twas under his
pillow. He always kept it there after the beds was made.
"'Humph!' grunts Brown. 'Why didn't you hang it on the door-knob?
Under the pillow! If I was a sneak thief, the first place I'd look
would be under the pillow; after that I'd tackle the jewelry box
and the safe.'
"There was consider'ble more talk. Seems the Sterzers had left
Henry on guard, same as they always done, when they went to supper.
They could trust him and Suzette absolute, they said. But Henry
had gone down the hall after a drink of water, and when he had got
back everything apparently was all right. 'Twa'n't till Gabe
himself come up that he found the paper gone. I judged he'd made
it interestin' for Henry; the poor critter looked that way.
"All hands agreed to keep mum for the present and to watch. Peter
hustled to the office and called up the Pinkertons over the long
Mr. Wingate paused. Captain Sol was impatient.
"Go on," he said. "Don't stop now, I'm gettin' anxious."
Barzilla rose to his feet. "Here's your McKay man back again," he
said. "Let's go up to your house and have breakfast. We can talk
while we're eatin'. I'm empty as a poorhouse boarder's
AVIATION AND AVARICE
Breakfast at Capt. Sol Berry's was a bountiful meal. The depot
master employed a middle-aged woman who came in each day, cooked
his meals and did the housework, returning to her own home at
night. After Mr. Wingate had mowed a clean swath through ham and
eggs, cornbread and coffee, and had reached the cooky and doughnut
stage, he condescended to speak further concerning the stolen
"Well," he said, "Brown give me and Jonadab a serious talkin' to
when he got us alone."
"'Now, fellers,' he says, 'we know what we've got to do. Nothin'll
be too good for this shebang and us if we get that agreement back.
Fust place, the thing was done a few minutes after the supper-bell
rung. That is, unless that 'Enry is in on the deal, which ain't
unlikely, considerin' the price he could get from the Gordon gang.
Was anybody late at the tables?'
"Why, yes; there were quite a few late. Two of the 'gunners,'
who'd been on a forlorn-hope duck hunt; and a minister and his
wife, out walkin' for their health; and Parker and two fellers from
the football team, who'd been practicin'.
"'Any of the waiters or the chambermaids?' asked Peter.
"I'd been expectin' he'd ask that, and I hated to answer.
"'One of the waiters was a little late,' says I. 'Willie wa'n't on
hand immediate. Said he went to wash his hands.'
"Now the help gen'rally washed in the fo'castle--the servants'
quarters, I mean--but there was a wash room on the floor where the
Sterzer-Robinsons roomed. Peter looked at Jonadab, and the two of
'em at me. And I had to own up that Willie had come downstairs
from that wash room a few minutes after the bell rung.
"'Hum!' says Peter T. 'Hum!' he says. 'Look here, Barzilla,
didn't you tell me you knew that feller's real name, and that he
had been studying law?'
"'No,' says I, emphatic. 'I said 'twas law he was tryin' to get
away from. His tastes run large to literation and poetry.'
"'Hum!' says Peter again. 'All papers are more or less literary--
even trust agreements. Hum!'
"'All the same,' says I, 'I'll bet my Sunday beaver that HE never
"They didn't answer, but looked solemn. Then the three of us went
"Nobody made a move to go out that evenin'. I kept whatever mail
was handed in, but there was nothin' that looked like any
agreements, and nothin' addressed to Gordon or his lawyers. At
twelve or so, the detective come. Peter drove up to the depot to
meet the special. He told the whole yarn on the way down.
"The detective was a nice enough chap, and we agreed he should be
'Mr. Snow,' of New York, gunnin' for health and ducks. He said the
watch must be kept up all night, and in the mornin' he'd make his
fust move. So said, so done.
"And afore breakfast that next mornin' we called everybody into the
dinin' room, boarders, help, stable hands, every last one. And
Peter made a little speech. He said that a very valuable paper had
been taken out of Mr. Robinson's room, and 'twas plain that it must
be on the premises somewhere. 'Course, nobody was suspicioned,
but, speakin' for himself, he'd feel better if his clothes and his
room was searched through. How'd the rest feel about it?
"Well, they felt diff'rent ways, but Parker spoke up like a brick,
and said he wouldn't rest easy till HIS belongin's was pawed over,
and then the rest fell in line. We went through everybody and
every room on the place. Found nothin', of course. Snow--the
detective--said he didn't expect to. But I tell you there was some
talkin' goin' on, just the same. The minister, he hinted that he
had some doubts about them dissipated gunners; and the gunners
cal'lated they never see a parson yet wouldn't bear watchin'. As
for me, I felt like a pickpocket, and, judgin' from Jonadab's face,
he felt the same.
"The detective man swooped around quiet, bobbin' up in unexpected
places, like a porpoise, and askin' questions once in a while. He
asked about most everybody, but about Willie, especial. I judged
Peter T. had dropped a hint to him and to Gabe. Anyhow, the old
critter give out that he wouldn't trust a poet with the silver
handles on his grandmarm's coffin. As for Grace, she acted
dreadful nervous and worried. Once I caught her swabbin' her eyes,
as if she'd been cryin'; but I'd never seen her and Willie together
but the one time I told you of.
"Four days and nights crawled by. No symptoms yet. The Pinkertons
was watchin' the Gordon lawyers' office in New York, and they
reported that nothin' like that agreement had reached there. And
our own man--Snow--said he'd go bail it hadn't been smuggled off
the premises sense HE struck port. So 'twas safe so far; but where
was it, and who had it?
"The final football game, the one with Wapatomac, was to be played
over on their grounds on the afternoon of the fifth day. Parker,
cap'n of the eleven, give out that, considerin' everything, he
didn't know but we'd better call it off. Old Robinson--Sterzer, of
course--wouldn't hear of it.
"'Not much,' says he. 'I wouldn't chance your losin' that game for
forty papers. You sail in and lick 'em!' or words to that effect.
"So the eleven was to cruise across the bay in the Greased
Lightnin', Peter's little motor launch, and the rooters was to go
by train later on. 'Twas Parker's idee, goin' in the launch.
'Twould be more quiet, less strain on the nerves of his men, and
they could talk over plays and signals on the v'yage.
"So at nine o'clock in the forenoon they was ready, the whole team--
three waiters, two fishermen, one carpenter from up to Wellmouth
Center, a stable hand, and Parker and three reg'lar boarders.
These last three was friends of Parker's that he'd had come down
some time afore. He knew they could play football, he said, and
they'd come to oblige him.
"The eleven gathered on the front porch, all in togs and sweaters,
principally provided and paid for by Sterzer. Cap'n Parker had the
ball under his arm, and the launch was waitin' ready at the
landin'. All the boarders--except Grace, who was upstairs in her
room--and most of the help was standin' round to say good luck and
"Snow, the detective, was there, and I whispered in his ear.
"'Say,' I says, 'do you realize that for the fust time since the
robbery here's a lot of folks leavin' the house? How do you know
"He winked and nodded brisk. 'I'll attend to that,' he says.
"But he didn't have to. Parker spoke fust, and took the wind out
of his sails.
"'Gentlemen,' says he, 'I don't know how the rest of you feel, but,
as for me, I don't start without clear skirts. I suggest that Mr.
Brown and Mr. Wingate here search each one of us, thoroughly. Who
knows,' says he, laughin', 'but what I've got that precious stolen
paper tucked inside my sweater? Ha! ha! Come on, fellers! I'll
"He tossed the ball into a chair and marched into the office, the
rest of the players after him, takin' it as a big joke. And there
the searchin' was done, and done thorough, 'cause Peter asked Mr.
Snow to help, and he knew how. One thing was sure; Pa Gabe's
agreement wa'n't hid about the persons of that football team.
Everybody laughed--that is, all but the old man and the detective.
Seemed to me that Snow was kind of disappointed, and I couldn't see
why. 'Twa'n't likely any of THEM was thieves.
"Cap'n Parker picked up his football and started off for the
launch. He'd got about ha'fway to the shore when Willie--who'd
been stand-in' with the rest of the help, lookin' on--stepped
for'ard pretty brisk and whispered in the ear of the Pinkerton man.
The detective jumped, sort of, and looked surprised and mighty
"'By George!' says he. 'I never thought of that.' Then he run to
the edge of the piazza and called.
"'Mr. Parker!' he sings out. 'Oh, Mr. Parker!'
"Parker was at the top of the little rise that slopes away down to
the landin'. The rest of the eleven was scattered from the shore
to the hotel steps. He turns, without stoppin', and answers.
"'What is it?' he sings out, kind of impatient.
"'There's just one thing we forgot to look at,' shouts Snow.
'Merely a matter of form, but just bring that-- Hey! Stop him!
"For Parker, instead of comin' back, had turned and was leggin' it
for the launch as fast as he could, and that was some.
"'Stop!' roars the Pinkerton man, jumpin' down the steps. 'Stop,
"'Hold him, Jim!' screeched Parker, over his shoulder. One of the
biggest men on the eleven--one of the three 'friends' who'd been so
obligin' as to come down on purpose to play football--made a dive,
caught the detective around the waist, and threw him flat.
"'Go on, Ed!' he shouts. 'I've got him, all right.'
"Ed--meanin' Parker--was goin' on, and goin' fast. All hands
seemed to be frozen stiff, me and Jonadab and Peter T. included.
As for me, I couldn't make head nor tail of the doin's; things was
comin' too quick for MY understandin'.
"But there was one on that piazza who wa'n't froze. Fur from it!
Willie, the poet waiter, made a jump, swung his long legs over the
porch-rail, hit the ground, and took after that Parker man like a
cat after a field mouse.
"Run! I never see such runnin'! He fairly flashed across that
lawn and over the rise. Parker was almost to the landin'; two more
jumps and he'd been aboard the launch. If he'd once got aboard, a
turn of the switch and that electric craft would have had him out
of danger in a shake. But them two jumps was two too many. Willie
riz off the ground like a flyin' machine, turned his feet up and
his head down, and lapped his arms around Parker's knees. Down the
pair of 'em went 'Ker-wallop!' and the football flew out of
"In an eyewink that poet was up, grabs the ball, and comes tearin'
back toward us.
"'Stop him!' shrieks Parker from astern.
"'Head him off! Tackle him!' bellers the big chap who was hangin'
onto the detective.
"They tell me that discipline and obeyin' orders is as much in
football as 'tis aboard ship. If that's so, every one of the Old
Home House eleven was onto their jobs. There was five men between
Willie and the hotel, and they all bore down on him like bats on a
"'Get him!' howls Parker, racin' to help.
"'Down him!' chimes in big Jim, his knee in poor Snow's back.
"'Run, Bearse! Run!' whoops the Pinkerton man, liftin' his mouth
out of the sand.
"He run--don't you worry about that! Likewise he dodged. One chap
swooped at him, and he ducked under his arms. Another made a dive,
and he jumped over him. The third one he pushed one side with his
hand. 'Pushed!' did I say? 'Knocked' would be better, for the
feller--the carpenter 'twas--went over and over like a barrel
rollin' down hill. But there was two more left, and one of 'em was
bound to have him.
"Then a window upstairs banged open.
"'Oh, Mr. Bearse!' screamed a voice--Grace Sterzer's voice. 'Don't
let them get you!'
"We all heard her, in spite of the shoutin' and racket. Willie
heard her, too. The two fellers, one at each side, was almost on
him, when he stopped, looked up, jumped back, and, as cool as a
rain barrel in January, he dropped that ball and kicked it.
"I can see that picture now, like a tableau at a church sociable.
The fellers that was runnin', the others on the ground, and that
literary pie passer with his foot swung up to his chin.
"And the ball! It sailed up and up in a long curve, began to drop,
passed over the piazza roof, and out of sight.
"'Lock your door, Miss Sterzer,' sung out Fred Bearse--'Willie' for
short. 'Lock your door and keep that ball. I think your father's
paper is inside it.'
"As sure as my name is Barzilla Wingate, he had kicked that
football straight through the open window into old Gabe's room."
The depot master whooped and slapped his knee. Mr. Wingate grinned
delightedly and continued:
"There!" he went on, "the cat's out of the bag, and there ain't
much more to tell. Everybody made a bolt for the room, old Gabe
and Peter T. in the lead. Grace let her dad in, and the ball was
ripped open in a hurry. Sure enough! Inside, between the leather
and the rubber, was the missin' agreement. Among the jubilations
and praise services nobody thought of much else until Snow, the
Pinkerton man, come upstairs, his clothes tore and his eyes and
nose full of sand.
"'Humph!' says he. 'You've got it, hey? Good! Well, you haven't
got friend Parker. Look!'
"Such of us as could looked out of the window. There was the
launch, with Parker and his three 'friends' in it, headin' two-
forty for blue water.
"'Let 'em go,' says old Gabe, contented. 'I wouldn't arrest 'em if
I could. This is no police-station job.'
"It come out afterwards that Parker was a young chap just from law
school, who had gone to work for the firm of shysters who was
attendin' to the Gordon interests. They had tracked Sterzer to the
Old Home House, and had put their new hand on the job of gettin'
that agreement. Fust he'd tried to shine up to Grace, but the
shine--her part of it--had wore off. Then he decided to steal it;
and he done it, just how nobody knows. Snow, the detective, says
he cal'lates Henry, the servant, is wiser'n most folks thinks,
fur's that's concerned.
"Snow had found out about Parker inside of two days. Soon's he got
the report as to who he was, he was morally sartin that he was the
thief. He'd looked up Willie's record, too, and that was clear.
In fact, Willie helped him consider'ble. 'Twas him that recognized
Parker, havin' seen him play on a law-school team. Also 'twas
Willie who thought of the paper bein' in the football.
"Land of love! What a hero they made of that waiter!
"'By the livin' Moses!' bubbles old Gabe, shakin' both the boy's
hands. 'That was the finest run and tackle and the finest kick I
ever saw anywhere. I've seen every big game for ten years, and I
never saw anything half so good.'
"The Pinkerton man laughed. 'There's only one chap on earth who
can kick like that. Here he is,' layin' his hand on 'Willie's'
shoulder. Bearse, the All-American half-back last year.'
"Gabe's mouth fell open. 'Not "Bung" Bearse, of Yarvard!' he sings
out. 'Why! WHY!'
"'Of course, father!' purrs his daughter, smilin' and happy. 'I
knew him at once. He and I were--er--slightly acquainted when I
was at Highcliffe.'
"'But--but "Bung" Bearse!' gasps the old gent. 'Why, you rascal!
I saw you kick the goal that beat Haleton. Your reputation is
"Willie--Fred Bearse, that is--shook his head, sad and regretful.
"'Thank you, Mr. Sterzer,' says he, in his gentle tenor. 'I have
no desire to be famous in athletics. My aspirations now are
"Well, he's got his literary job at last, bein' engaged as sportin'
editor on one of Gabe's papers. His dad, old Sol Bearse, seems to
be pretty well satisfied, partic'lar as another engagement between
the Bearse family and the Sterzers has just been given out."
Barzilla helped himself to another doughnut. His host leaned back
in his chair and laughed uproariously.
"Well, by the great and mighty!" he exclaimed, "that Willie chap
certainly did fool you, didn't he. You can't always tell about
these college critters. Sometimes they break out unexpected, like
chickenpox in the 'Old Men's Home.' Ha! ha! Say, do you know Nate
"Know him? Course I know him! The meanest man on the Cape, and
livin' right in my own town, too! Well, if I didn't know him I
might trust him, and that would be the beginnin' of the end--for
"It sartin would. But what made me think of him was what he told
me about his nephew, who was a college chap, consider'ble like your
'Willie,' I jedge. Nate and this nephew, Augustus Tolliver, was
mixed up in that flyin'-machine business, you remember."
"I know they was. Mixed up with that Professor Dixland the papers
are makin' such a fuss over. Wellmouth's been crazy over it all,
but it happened a year ago and nobody that I know of has got the
straight inside facts about it yet. Nate won't talk at all.
Whenever you ask him he busts out swearin' and walks off. His
wife's got such a temper that nobody dared ask her, except the
minister. He tried it, and ain't been the same man since."
"Well," the depot master smilingly scratched his chin, "I cal'late
I've got those inside facts."
"Yes. Nate gave 'em to me, under protest. You see, I know Nate
pretty well. I know some things about him that . . . but never
mind that part. I asked him and, at last, he told me. I'll have
to tell you in his words, 'cause half the fun was the way he told
it and the way he looked at the whole business. So you can imagine
I'm Nate, and--"
"'Twill be a big strain on my imagination to b'lieve you're Nate
Scudder, Sol Berry."
"Thanks. However, you'll have to do it for a spell. Well, Nate
said that it really begun when the Professor and Olivia landed at
the Wellmouth depot with the freight car full of junk. Of course,
the actual beginnin' was further back than that, when that Harmon
man come on from Philadelphy and hunted him up, makin' proclamation
that a friend of his, a Mr. Van Brunt of New York, had said that
Scudder had a nice quiet island to let and maybe he could hire it.
"Course Nate had an island--that little sun-dried sandbank a mile
or so off shore, abreast his house, which we used to call
'Horsefoot Bar.' That crazy Van Brunt and his chum, Hartley, who
lived there along with Sol Pratt a year or so ago, re-christened it
'Ozone Island,' you remember. Nate was willin' to let it. He'd
let Tophet, if he owned it, and a fool come along who wanted to
hire it and could pay for the rent and heat.
"So Nate and this Harmon feller rowed over to the Bar--to Ozone
Island, I mean--and the desolation and loneliness of it seemed to
suit him to perfection. So did the old house and big barn and all
the tumbledown buildin's stuck there in the beach-grass and sand.
Afore they'd left they made a dicker. He wa'n't the principal in
it. He was the private secretary and fust mate of Mr. Professor
Ansel Hobart Dixland, the scientist--perhaps Scudder'd heard of
"Perhaps he had, but if so, Nate forgot it, though he didn't tell
him that. Harmon ordered a fifteen-foot-high board fence built all
around the house and barn, and made Nate swear not to tell a soul
who was comin' nor anything. Dixland might want the island two
months, he said, or he might want it two years. Nate didn't care.
He was in for good pickin's, and begun to pick by slicin' a liberal
commission off that fencebuildin' job. There was a whole passel of
letters back and forth between Nate and Harmon, and finally Nate
got word to meet the victims at the depot.
"There was the professor himself, an old dried-up relic with
whiskers and a temper; and there was Miss Olivia Dixland, his niece
and housekeeper, a slim, plain lookin' girl, who wore eyeglasses
and a straight up and down dress. And there was a freight car full
of crates and boxes and land knows what all. But nary sign was
there of a private secretary and assistant. The professor told
Nate that Mr. Harmon's health had suddenly broke down and he'd had
to be sent South.
"'It's a calamity,' says he; 'a real calamity! Harmon has been
with me in my work from the beginnin'; and now, just as it is
approachin' completion, he is taken away. They say he may die. It
is very annoyin'.'
"'Humph!' says Nate. 'Well, maybe it annoys HIM some, too; you
can't tell. What you goin' to do for a secretary?'
"'I understand,' says the professor, 'that there is a person of
consider'ble scientific attainment residin' with you, Mr. Scudder,
at present. Harmon met him while he was here; they were in the
same class at college. Harmon recommended him highly. Olivia,' he
says to the niece, 'what was the name of the young man whom Harmon
"'Tolliver, Uncle Ansel,' answers the girl, lookin' kind of
disdainful at Nate. Somehow he had the notion that she didn't take
to him fust rate.
"'Hey?' sings out Nate. 'Tolliver? Why, that's Augustus!
AUGUSTUS! well, I'll be switched!'
"Augustus Tolliver was Nate's nephew from up Boston way. Him and
Nate was livin' together at that time. Huldy Ann, Mrs. Scudder,
was out West, in Omaha, takin' care of a cousin of hers who was a
chronic invalid and, what's more to the purpose, owned a lot of
stock in copper mines.
"Augustus was a freckle-faced, spindle-shanked little critter, with
spectacles and a soft, polite way of speakin' that made you want to
build a fire under him to see if he could swear like a Christian.
He had a big head with consider'ble hair on the top of it and
nothin' underneath but what he called 'science' and 'sociology.'
His science wa'n't nothin' but tommy-rot to Nate, and the
'sociology' was some kind of drivel about everybody bein' equal to
everybody else, or better. 'Seemed to think 'twas wrong to get a
good price for a thing when you found a feller soft enough to pay
it. Did you ever hear the beat of that in your life?' says Nate.
"However, Augustus had soaked so much science and sociology into
that weak noddle of his that they kind of made him drunk, as you
might say, and the doctor had sent him down to board with the
Scudders and sleep it off. 'Nervous prostration' was the way he
had his symptoms labeled, and the nerve part was all right, for if
a hen flew at him he'd holler and run. Scart! you never see such a
scart cat in your born days. Scart of a boat, scart of being
seasick, scart of a gun, scart of everything! Most special he was
scart of Uncle Nate. The said uncle kept him that way so's he
wouldn't dast to kick at the grub him and Huldy Ann give him, I
"'Augustus Tolliver,' says old Dixland, noddin'. 'Yes, that is the
name. Has he had a sound scientific trainin'?'
"'Scientific trainin'!' says Nate. 'Scientific trainin'? Why, you
bet he's had it! That's the only kind of trainin' he HAS had.
He'll be just the feller for you, Mr. Dixland.'
"So that was settled, all but notifyin' Augustus. But Scudder
sighted another speculation in the offin', and hove alongside of
"'Mr. Harmon, when he was here,' says he, 'he mentioned you needin'
a nice, dependable man to live on the island and be sort of general
roustabout. My wife bein' away just now, and all, it struck me
that I might as well be that man. Maybe my terms'll seem a little
high, at fust mention, but--'
"'Very good,' says the professor, 'very good. I'm sure you'll be
satisfactory. Now please see to the unloading of that car. And be
careful, VERY careful.'
"Nate broke the news to Augustus that afternoon. He had his nose
stuck in a book, as usual, and never heard, so Nate yelled at him
like a mate on a tramp steamer, just to keep in trainin'.
"'Who? Who? Who? What? What?' squeals Augustus, jumpin' out of
the chair as if there was pins in it. 'What is it? Who did it?
Oh, my poor nerves!'
"'Drat your poor nerves!' Nate says. 'I've got a good promisin'
job for you. Listen to this.'