Part 5 out of 6
The yellow envelope which contained the few lines meaning life or
death to little Hiram Joash Baker was delivered at Dr. Morgan's
Back Bay office at ten minutes past ten. Dr. Payson--that was the
assistant's name--was out, but Jackson, the colored butler, took
the telegram into his employer's office, laid it on the desk among
the papers, and returned to the hall to finish his nap in the
armchair. When Dr. Payson came in, at 11:30, the sleepy Jackson
forgot to mention the dispatch.
The next morning as Jackson was cleaning the professional boots in
the kitchen and chatting with the cook, the thought of the yellow
envelope came back to his brain. He went up the stairs with such
precipitation that the cook screamed, thinking he had a fit.
"Doctah! Doctah!" he exclaimed, opening the door of the assistant's
chamber, "did you git dat telegraft I lef' on your desk las'
"What telegraph?" asked the assistant sleepily. By way of answer
Jackson hurried out and returned with the yellow envelope. The
assistant opened it and read as follows:
Send 1,500 units Diphtheritic Serum to me by morning train. Don't
fail. Utmost importance.
J. S. MORGAN.
Dr. Payson sprang out of bed, and running to the table took up the
Railway Guide, turned to the pages devoted to the O. C. and C. C.
Railroad and ran his finger down the printed tables. The morning
train for Cape Cod left at 7:10. It was 6:45 at that moment. As
has been said, the assistant had considerable common sense. He
proved this by wasting no time in telling the forgetful Jackson
what he thought of him. He sent the latter after a cab and
proceeded to dress in double-quick time. Ten minutes later he was
on his way to the station with the little wooden case containing
the precious antitoxin, wrapped and addressed, in his pocket.
It was seven by the Arlington Street Church clock as the cab
rattled down Boylston Street. A tangle of a trolley car and a
market wagon delayed it momentarily at Harrison Avenue and Essex
Street. Dr. Payson, leaning out as the carriage swung into Dewey
Square, saw by the big clock on the Union Station that it was 7:13.
He had lost the train.
Now, the assistant had been assistant long enough to know that
excuses--in the ordinary sense of the word--did not pass current
with Dr. Morgan. That gentleman had telegraphed for antitoxin, and
said it was important that he should have it; therefore, antitoxin
must be sent in spite of time-tables and forgetful butlers. Dr.
Payson went into the waiting room and sat down to think. After a
moment's deliberation he went over to the ticket office and asked:
"What is the first stop of the Cape Cod express?"
"Brockboro," answered the ticket seller.
"Is the train usually on time?"
"Well, I should smile. That's Charlie Mills's train, and the old
man ain't been conductor on this road twenty-two years for
"Mills? Does he live on Shawmut Avenue?"
"Dunno. Billy, where does Charlie Mills live?"
"Somewhere at the South End. Shawmut Avenue, I think."
"Thank you," said the assistant, and, helping himself to a time-
table, he went back rejoicing to his seat in the waiting room. He
had stumbled upon an unexpected bit of luck.
There might be another story written in connection with this one;
the story of a veteran railroad man whose daughter had been very,
very ill with a dreaded disease of the lungs, and who, when other
physicians had given up hope, had been brought back to health by a
celebrated specialist of our acquaintance. But this story cannot
be told just now; suffice it to say that Conductor Charlie Mills
had vowed that he would put his neck beneath the wheels of his own
express train, if by so doing he could confer a favor on Dr. John
The assistant saw by his time-table that the Cape Cod express
reached Brockboro at 8:05. He went over to the telegraph office
and wrote two telegrams. The first read like this:
CALVIN S. WISE, The People's Drug Store, 28 Broad Street,
Send package 1,500 units Diphtheritic Serum marked with my name to
station. Hand to Conductor Mills, Cape Cod express. Train will
wait. Matter life and death.
The second telegram was to Conductor Mills. It read:
Hold train Brockboro to await arrival C. A. Wise. Great personal
favor. Very important.
Both of these dispatches were signed with the magic name, "J. S.
"Well," said the assistant as he rode back to his office, "I don't
know whether Wise will get the stuff to the train in time, or
whether Mills will wait for him, but at any rate I've done my part.
I hope breakfast is ready, I'm hungry."
Mr. Wise, of "The People's Drug Store," had exactly two minutes in
which to cover the three-quarters of a mile to the station. As a
matter of course, he was late. Inquiring for Conductor Mills, he
was met by a red-faced man in uniform, who, watch in hand, demanded
what in the vale of eternal torment he meant by keeping him waiting
"Do you realize," demanded the red-faced man, "that I'm liable to
lose my job? I'll have you to understand that if any other man
than Doc. Morgan asked me to hold up the Cape Cod express, I'd tell
him to go right plumb to--"
Here Mr. Wise interrupted to hand over the package and explain that
it was a matter of life and death. Conductor Mills only grunted as
he swung aboard the train.
"Hump her, Jim," he said to the engineer; "she's got to make up
those eight minutes."
And Jim did.
And so it happened that on the morning of the Fourth of July,
Dusenberry's birthday, Captain Hiram Baker and his wife sat
together in the sitting room, with very happy faces. The Captain
had in his hands the "truly boat with sails," which the little
first mate had so ardently wished for.
She was a wonder, that boat. Red hull, real lead on the keel,
brass rings on the masts, reef points on the main and fore sail,
jib, flying jib and topsails, all complete. And on the stern was
the name, "Dusenberry. East Harniss."
Captain Hiram set her down in front of him on the floor.
"Gee!" he exclaimed, "won't his eyes stick out when he sees that
rig, hey? Wisht he would be well enough to see it to-day, same as
"Well, Hiram," said Sophrony, "we hadn't ought to complain. We'd
ought to be thankful he's goin' to get well at all. Dr. Morgan
says, thanks to that blessed toxing stuff, he'll be up and around
in a couple of weeks."
"Sophrony," said her husband, "we'll have a special birthday
celebration for him when he gets all well. You can bake the
frosted cake and we'll have some of the other children in. I TOLD
you God wouldn't be cruel enough to take him away."
And this is how Fate and the medical profession and the O. C. and
C. C. Railroad combined to give little Hiram Joash Baker his
birthday, and explains why, as he strolled down Main Street that
afternoon, Captain Hiram was heard to sing heartily:
Haul on the bowline, the 'Phrony is a-rollin',
Haul on the bowline, the bowline, HAUL!
Surely, but very, very slowly, the little Berry house moved on its
rollers up the Hill Boulevard. Right at its heels--if a house may
be said to have heels--came the "pure Colonial," under the guidance
of the foreman with "progressive methods." Groups of idlers, male
and female, stood about and commented. Simeon Phinney smilingly
replied to their questions. Captain Sol himself seemed little
interested. He spent most of his daylight time at the depot, only
going to the Higginses' house for his meals. At night, after the
station was closed, he sought his own dwelling, climbed over the
joist and rollers, entered, retired to his room, and went to bed.
Each day also he grew more taciturn. Even with Simeon, his
particular friend, he talked little.
"What IS the matter with you, Sol?" asked Mr. Phinney. "You're as
glum as a tongue-tied parrot. Ain't you satisfied with the way I'm
doin' your movin'? The white horse can go back again if you say
"I'm satisfied," grunted the depot master. "Let you know when I've
got any fault to find. How soon will you get abreast the--abreast
the Seabury lot?"
"Let's see," mused the building mover. "Today's the eighth. Well,
I'll be there by the eleventh, SURE. Can't drag it out no longer,
Sol, even if the other horse is took sick. 'Twon't do. Williams
has been complainin' to the selectmen and they're beginnin' to
pester me. As for that Colt and Adams foreman--whew!"
He whistled. His companion smiled grimly.
"Williams himself drops in to see me occasional," he said. "Tells
me what he thinks of me, with all the trimmin's added. I cal'late
he gets as good as he sends. I'm always glad to see him; he keeps
me cheered up, in his way."
"Ye-es, I shouldn't wonder. Was he in to-day?"
"He was. And somethin' has pleased him, I guess. At any rate he
was in better spirits. Asked me if I was goin' to move right onto
that Main Street lot soon as my house got there."
"What did you say?"
"I said I was cal'latin' to. Told him I hated to get out of the
high-society circles I'd been livin' in lately, but that everyone
had their comedowns in this world."
"Ho, ho! that was a good one. What answer did he make to that?"
"Well, he said the 'high society' would miss me. Then he finished
up with a piece of advice. 'Berry,' says he, 'don't move onto that
lot TOO quick. I wouldn't if I was you.' Then he went away,
"Chucklin', hey? What made him so joyful?"
"Don't know"--Captain Sol's face clouded once more--"and I care
less," he added brusquely.
Simeon pondered. "Have you heard from Abner Payne, Sol?" he asked.
"Has Ab answered that letter you wrote sayin' you'd swap your lot
for the Main Street one?"
"No, he hasn't. I wrote him that day I told you to move me."
"Hum! that's kind of funny. You don't s'pose--"
He stopped, noticing the expression on his friend's face. The
depot master was looking out through the open door of the waiting
room. On the opposite side of the road, just emerging from Mr.
Higgins's "general store," was Olive Edwards, the widow whose home
was to be pulled down as soon as the "Colonial" reached its
destination. She came out of the store and started up Main Street.
Suddenly, and as if obeying an involuntary impulse, she turned her
head. Her eyes met those of Captain Sol Berry, the depot master.
For a brief instant their glance met, then Mrs. Edwards hurried on.
Sim Phinney sighed pityingly. "Looks kind of tired and worried,
don't she?" he ventured. His friend did not speak.
"I say," repeated Phinney, "that Olive looks sort of worn out and--"
"Has she heard from the Omaha cousin yet?" interrupted the depot
"No; Mr. Hilton says not. Sol, what DO you s'pose--"
But Captain Sol had risen and gone into the ticket office. The
door closed behind him. Mr. Phinney shook his head and walked out
of the building. On his way back to the scene of the house moving
he shook his head several times.
On the afternoon of the ninth Captain Bailey Stitt and his friend
Wingate came to say good-by. Stitt was going back to Orham on the
"up" train, due at 3:3O. Barzilla would return to Wellmouth and
the Old Home House on the evening (the "down") train.
"Hey, Sol!" shouted Wingate, as they entered the waiting room.
"Sol! where be you?"
The depot master came out of the ticket office. "Hello, boys!" he
"Hello, Sol!" hailed Stitt. "Barzilla and me have come to shed the
farewell tear. As hirelin's of soulless corporations, meanin' the
Old Home House at Wellmouth and the Ocean House at Orham, we've
engaged all the shellfish along-shore and are goin' to clear out."
"Yes," chimed in his fellow "hireling," "and we thought the
pleasantest place to put in our few remainin' hours--as the papers
say when a feller's goin' to be hung--was with you."
"I thought so," said Captain Bailey, with a wink. "We've been
havin' more or less of an argument, Sol. Remember how Barzilla
made fun of Jonadab Wixon for believin' in dreams? Yes, well that
was only make believe. He believes in 'em himself."
"I don't either," declared Wingate. "And I never said so. What I
said was that sometimes it almost seemed as if there was somethin'
IN fortune tellin' and such."
"There is," chuckled Bailey with another wink at the depot master.
"There's money in it--for the fortune tellers."
"I said--and I say again," protested Barzilla, "that I knew a case
at our hotel of a servant girl named Effie, and she--"
"Oh, Heavens to Betsy! Here he goes again, I steered him in here
on purpose, Sol, so's he'd get off that subject."
"You never neither. You said--"
The depot master held up his hand. "Don't both talk at once," he
commanded. "Set down and be peaceful, can't you. That's right.
What about this Effie, Barzilla?"
"Now look here!" protested Stitt.
"Shut up, Bailey! Who was Effie, Barzilla?"
"She was third assistant roustabout and table girl at the Old Home
House," said Wingate triumphantly. "Got another cigar, Sol?
Thanks. Yes, this Effie had never worked out afore and she was
greener'n a mess of spinach; but she was kind of pretty to look at
"Ah, ha!" crowed Captain Bailey, "here comes the heart confessions.
Want to look out for these old bachelors, Sol. Fire away,
Barzilla; let us know the worst."
"I took a fancy to her, in a way. She got in the habit of tellin'
me her troubles and secrets, me bein' old enough to be her dad--"
"Aw, yes!" this from Stitt, the irrepressible. "That's an old gag.
"WILL you shut up?" demanded Captain Sol. "Go on, Barzilla."
"Me bein' old enough to be her dad," with a glare at Captain
Bailey, "and not bein' too proud to talk with hired help. I never
did have that high-toned notion. 'Twa'n't so long since I was a
"So Effie told me a lot about herself. Seems she'd been over to
the Cattle Show at Ostable one year, and she was loaded to the
gunwale with some more or less facts that a fortune-tellin'
specimen by the name of the 'Marvelous Oriental Seer' had handed
her in exchange for a quarter.
"'Yup,' says she, bobbin' her head so emphatic that the sky-blue
ribbon pennants on her black hair flapped like a loose tops'l in a
gale of wind. 'Yup,' says she, 'I b'lieve it just as much as I
b'lieve anything. How could I help it when he told me so much that
has come true already? He said I'd seen trouble, and the dear land
knows that's so! and that I might see more, and I cal'late that's
pretty average likely. And he said I hadn't been brought up in
"'Which wa'n't no exaggeration neither,' I put in, thinkin' of the
shack over on the Neck Road where she and her folks used to live.
"'No,' says she; 'and he told me I'd always had longin's for better
and higher things and that my intellectuals was above my station.
Well, ever sence I was knee high to a kitchen chair I'd ruther work
upstairs than down, and as for intellectuals, ma always said I was
the smartest young one she'd raised yet. So them statements give
me consider'ble confidence. But he give out that I was to make a
journey and get money, and when THAT come true I held up both hands
and stood ready to swaller all the rest of it.'
"'So it come true, did it?' says I.
"'Um-hm,' says she, bouncin' her head again. 'Inside of four year
I traveled 'way over to South Eastboro--'most twelve mile--to my
Uncle Issy's fun'ral, and there I found that he'd left me nine
hundred dollars for my very own. And down I flops on the parlor
sofy and says I: "There! don't talk superstition to ME no more! A
person that can foretell Uncle Issy's givin' anybody a cent, let
alone nine hundred dollars, is a good enough prophet for ME to tie
to. Now I KNOW that I'm going to marry the dark-complected man,
and I'll be ready for him when he comes along. I never spent a
quarter no better than when I handed it over to that Oriental Seer
critter at the Cattle Show." That's what I said then and I b'lieve
it yet. Wouldn't you feel the same way?'
"I said sure thing I would. I'd found out that the best way to
keep Effie's talk shop runnin' was to agree with her. And I liked
to hear her talk.
"'Yup,' she went on, 'I give right in then. I'd traveled same as
the fortune teller said, and I'd got more money'n I ever expected
to see, let alone own. And ever sence I've been sartin as I'm
alive that the feller I marry will be of a rank higher'n mine and
dark complected and good-lookin' and distinguished, and that he'll
be name of Butler.'
"'Butler?' says I. 'What will he be named Butler for?'
"''Cause the Seer critter said so. He said he could see the word
Butler printed out over the top of my head in flamin' letters. Pa
used to say 'twas a wonder it never set fire to my crimps, but he
was only foolin'. I know that it's all comin' out true. You ain't
acquaintanced to any Butlers, are you?'
"'No,' says I. 'I heard Ben Butler make a speech once when he was
gov'nor, but he's dead now. There ain't no Butlers on the Old Home
"'Oh, I know that!' she says. 'And everybody round here is
homelier'n a moultin' pullet. There now! I didn't mean exactly
EVERYbody, of course. But you ain't dark complected, you know,
"'No,' says I, 'nor rank nor distinguished neither. Course the
handsome part might fit me, but I'd have to pass on the rest of the
hand. That's all right, Effie; my feelin's have got fire-proofed
sence I've been in the summer hotel business. Now you'd better run
along and report to Susannah. I hear her whoopin' for you, and she
don't light like a canary bird on the party she's mad with.'
"She didn't, that was a fact. Susannah Debs, who was housekeeper
for us that year, was middlin' young and middlin' good-lookin', and
couldn't forget it. Also and likewise, she had a suit for damages
against the railroad, which she had hopes would fetch her money
some day or other, and she couldn't forget that neither. She was
skipper of all the hired hands and, bein' as Effie was prettier
than she was, never lost a chance to lay the poor girl out. She
put the other help up to pokin' fun at Effie's green ways and high-
toned notions, and 'twas her that started 'em callin' her 'Lady
Evelyn' in the fo'castle--servants' quarters, I mean.
"'I'm a-comin', 'screams Effie, startin' for the door. 'Susannah's
in a tearin' hurry to get through early to-day,' she adds to me.
'She's got the afternoon off, and her beau's comin' to take her
buggy ridin'. He's from over Harniss way somewheres and they say
he's just lovely. My sakes! I wisht somebody'd take ME to ride.
Ah hum! cal'late I'll have to wait for my Butler man. Say, Mr.
Wingate, you won't mention my fortune to a soul, will you? I never
told anybody but you.'
"I promised to keep mum and she cleared out. After dinner, as I
was smokin', along with Cap'n Jonadab, on the side piazza, a horse
and buggy drove in at the back gate. A young chap with black curly
hair was pilotin' the craft. He was a stranger to me, wore a
checkerboard suit and a bonfire necktie, and had his hat twisted
over one ear. Altogether he looked some like a sunflower goin' to
"'Who's that barber's sign when it's to home?' says I to Jonadab.
He snorted contemptuous.
"'That?' he says. 'Don't you know the cut of that critter's jib?
He plays pool "for the house" in Web Saunders's place over to
Orham. He's the housekeeper's steady comp'ny--steady by spells, if
all I hear's true. Good-for-nothin' cub, I call him. Wisht I'd
had him aboard a vessel of mine; I'd 'a' squared his yards for him.
Look how he cants his hat to starboard so's to show them lovelocks.
"'What's his name?' I asks.
"'Name? Name's Butler--Simeon Butler. Don't you remember . . .
Hey? What in tunket. . .?'
"Both of us had jumped as if somebody'd touched off a bombshell
under our main hatches. The windows of the dining room was right
astern of us. We whirled round, and there was Effie. She'd been
clearin' off one of the tables and there she stood, with the
smashed pieces of an ice-cream platter in front of her, the melted
cream sloppin' over her shoes, and her face lookin' like the
picture of Lot's wife just turnin' to salt. Only Effie looked as
if she enjoyed the turnin'. She never spoke nor moved, just stared
after that buggy with her black eyes sparklin' like burnt holes in
"I was too astonished to say anything, but Jonadab had his eye on
that smashed platter and HE had things to say, plenty of 'em. I
walked off and left Effie playin' congregation to a sermon on the
text 'Crockery costs money.' You'd think that ice-cream dish was a
genuine ugly, nicked 'antique' wuth any city loon's ten dollars,
instead of bein' only new and pretty fifty-cent china. I felt real
sorry for the poor girl.
"But I needn't have been. That evenin' I found her on the back
steps, all Sunday duds and airs. Her hair had a wire friz on it,
and her dress had Joseph's coat in Scriptur' lookin' like a
mournin' rig. She'd have been real handsome--to a body that was
"'My, Effie!' says I, 'you sartin do look fine to-night.'
"'Yup,' she says, contented, 'I guess likely I do. Hope so, 'cause
I'm wearin' all I've got. Say, Mr. Wingate,' says she, excited as
a cat in a fit, 'did you see him?'
"'Him?' says I. 'Who's him?'
"'Why, HIM! The one the Seer said was comin'. The handsome, dark-
complected feller I'm goin' to marry. The Butler one. That was
him in the buggy this afternoon.'
"I looked at her. I'd forgot all about the fool prophecy.
"'Good land of love!' I says. 'You don't cal'late he's comin' to
marry YOU, do you, just 'cause his name's Butler? There's ten
thousand Butlers in the world. Besides, your particular one was
slated to be high ranked and distinguished, and this specimen
scrubs up the billiard-room floor and ain't no more distinguished
than a poorhouse pig.'
"'Ain't?' she sings out. 'Ain't distinguished? With all them
beautiful curls, and rings on his fingers, and--'
"'Bells on his toes? No!' says I, emphatic. 'Anyhow, he's signed
for the v'yage already. He's Susannah Debs's steady, and they're
off buggy ridin' together right now. And if she catches you makin'
eyes at her best feller--Whew!'
"Didn't make no difference. He was her Butler, sure. 'Twas Fate--
that's what 'twas--Fate, just the same as in storybooks. She was
sorry for poor Susannah and she wouldn't do nothin' mean nor
underhanded; but couldn't I understand that 'twas all planned out
for her by Providence and that everlastin' Seer? Just let me watch
and see, that's all.
"What can you do with an idiot like that? I walked off disgusted
and left her. But I cal'lated to watch. I judged 'twould be more
fun than any 'play-actin' show ever I took in.
"And 'twas, in a way. Don't ask me how they got acquainted, 'cause
I can't tell you for sartin. Nigh's I can learn, Susannah and Sim
had some sort of lover's row durin' their buggy ride, and when they
got back to the hotel they was scurcely on speakin' terms. And
Sim, who always had a watch out for'ard for pretty girls, see Effie
standin' on the servants' porch all togged up regardless and gay as
a tea-store chromo, and nothin' to do but he must be introduced.
One of the stable hands done the introducin', I b'lieve, and if
he'd have been hung afterwards 'twould have sarved him right.
"Anyhow, inside of a week Butler come round again to take a lady
friend drivin', but this time 'twas Effie, not the housekeeper,
that was passenger. And Susannah glared after 'em like a cat after
a sparrow, and the very next day she was for havin' Effie
discharged for incompetentiveness. I give Jonadab the tip, though,
so that didn't go through. But I cal'late there was a parrot and
monkey time among the help from then on.
"They all sided with Susannah, of course. She was their boss, for
one thing, and 'Lady Evelyn's' high-minded notions wa'n't popular,
for another. But Effie didn't care--bless you, no! She and that
Butler sport was together more and more, and the next thing I heard
was that they was engaged. I snum, if it didn't look as if the
Oriental man knew his job after all.
"I spoke to the stable hand about it.
"'Look here,' says I, 'is this business betwixt that pool player
and our Effie serious?'
"He laughed. 'Serious enough, I guess,' he says. 'They're goin'
to be married pretty soon, I hear. It's all 'cordin' to the law
and the prophets. Ain't you heard about the fortune tellin' and
how 'twas foretold she'd marry a Butler?'
"I'd heard, but I didn't s'pose he had. However, it seemed that
Effie hadn't been able to keep it to herself no longer. Soon as
she'd hooked her man she'd blabbed the whole thing. The fo'mast
hands wa'n't talkin' of nothin' else, so this feller said.
"'Humph!' says I. 'Is it the prophecy that Butler's bankin' on?'
"He laughed again. 'Not so much as on Lady Evelyn's nine hundred,
I cal'late,' says he. Sim likes Susannah the best of the two, so
we all reckon, but she ain't rich and Effie is. And yet, if the
Debs woman should win that lawsuit of hers against the railroad
she'd have pretty nigh twice as much. Butler's a fool not to wait,
I think,' he says.
"This was of a Monday. On Friday evenin' Effie comes around to see
me. I was alone in the office.
"'Mr. Wingate,' she says, 'I'm goin' to leave to-morrer night. I'm
goin' to be married on Sunday.'
"I'd been expecting it, but I couldn't help feelin' sorry for her.
"'Don't do nothin' rash, Effie,' I told her. 'Are you sure that
Butler critter cares anything about you and not your money?'
"She flared up like a tar barrel. 'The idea!' she says, turnin'
red. 'I just come in to give you warnin'. Good-by.'
"'Hold on,' I sung out to her. 'Effie, I've thought consider'ble
about you lately. I've been tryin' to help you a little on the
sly. I realized that 'twa'n't pleasant for you workin' here under
Susannah Debs, and I've been tryin' to find a nice place for you.
I wrote about you to Bob Van Wedderburn; he's the rich banker chap
who stopped here one summer. "Jonesy," we used to call him. I
know him and his wife fust rate, and he'd do 'most anything as a
favor to me. I told him what a neat, handy girl you was, and he
writes that he'll give you the job of second girl at his swell New
York house, if you want it. Now you just hand that Sim Butler his
clearance papers and go work for Bob's wife. The wages are double
what you get here, and--'
"She didn't wait to hear the rest. Just sailed out of the room
with her nose in the air. In a minute, though, back she come and
just put her head in the door.
"'I'm much obliged to you, Mr. Wingate,' says she. 'I know you
mean well. But you ain't had your fate foretold, same's I have.
It's all been arranged for me, and I couldn't stop it no more'n
Jonah could help swallerin' the whale. I--I kind of wish you'd be
on hand at the back door on Sunday mornin' when Simeon comes to
take me away. You--you're about the only real friend I've got,'
"And off she went, for good this time. I pitied her, in spite of
her bein' such a dough head. I knew what sort of a husband that
pool-room shark would make. However, there wa'n't nothin' to be
done. And next day Cap'n Jonadab was round, madder'n a licked pup.
Seems Susannah's lawyer at Orham had sent for her to come right off
and see him. Somethin' about the suit, it was. And she was goin'
in spite of everything. And with Effie's leavin' at the same time,
what was we goin' to do over Sunday? and so forth and so on.
"Well, we had to do the best we could, that's all. But that
Saturday was busy, now I tell you. Sunday mornin' broke fine and
clear and, after breakfast was over, I remembered Effie and that
'twas her weddin' day. On the back steps I found her, dressed in
all her grandeur, with her packed trunk ready, waitin' for the
"'Ain't come yet, hey, Effie?' says I.
"'No,' says she, smilin' and radiant. 'It's a little early for him
yet, I guess.'
"I went off to 'tend to the boarders. At half past ten, when I
made the back steps again, she was still there. T'other servants
was peekin' out of the kitchen windows, grinnin' and passin'
"'Hello!' I calls out. 'Not married yet? What's the matter?'
"She'd stopped smilin', but she was as chipper as ever, to all
"'I--I guess the horse has gone lame or somethin',' says she.
'He'll be here any time now.'
"There was a cackle from the kitchen windows. I never said
nothin'. She'd made her nest; now let her roost on it.
"But at twelve Butler hadn't hove in sight. Every hand, male and
female, on the place, that wa'n't busy, was hangin' around the back
of the hotel, waitin' and watchin' and ridiculin' and havin' a high
time. Them that had errands made it a p'int to cruise past that
way. Lots of the boarders had got wind of the doin's, and they was
"Effie was settin' on her trunk, tryin' hard to look brave. I went
up and spoke to her.
"'Come, my girl,' says I. 'Don't set here no longer. Come into
the house and wait. Hadn't you better?'
"'No!' says she, loud and defiant like. 'No, sir! It's all right.
He's a little late, that's all. What do you s'pose I care for a
lot of jealous folks like those up there?' wavin' her flipper
scornful toward the kitchen.
"And then, all to once, she kind of broke down, and says to me,
with a pitiful sort of choke in her voice:
"'Oh, Mr. Wingate! I can't stand this. Why DON'T he come?'
"I tried hard to think of somethin' comfortin' to say, but afore I
could h'ist a satisfyin' word out of my hatches I heard the noise
of a carriage comin'. Effie heard it, too, and so did everybody
else. We all looked toward the gate. 'Twas Sim Butler, sure
enough, in his buggy and drivin' the same old horse; but settin'
alongside of him on the seat was Susannah Debs, the housekeeper.
And maybe she didn't look contented with things in gen'ral!
"Butler pulled up his horse by the gate. Him and Susannah bowed to
all hands. Nobody said anything for a minute. Then Effie bounced
off the trunk and down them steps.
"'Simmie ' she sung out, breathless like, 'Simeon Butler, what does
"The Debs woman straightened up on the seat. 'Thank you, marm,'
says she, chilly as the top section of an ice chest, 'I'll request
you not to call my husband by his first name.'
"It was so still you could have heard yourself grow. Effie turned
white as a Sunday tablecloth.
"'Your--husband?' she gasps. 'Your--your HUSBAND?'
"'Yes, marm,' purrs the housekeeper. 'My husband was what I said.
Mr. Butler and me have just been married.'
"'Sorry, Effie, old girl,' puts in Butler, so sassy I'd love to
have preached his fun'ral sermon. 'Too bad, but fust love's
strongest, you know. Susie and me was engaged long afore you come
"THEN such a haw-haw and whoop bust from the kitchen and fo'castle
as you never heard. For a jiffy poor Effie wilted right down.
Then she braced up and her black eyes snapped.
"'I wish you joy of your bargain, marm,' says she to Susannah.
'You'd ought to be proud of it. And as for YOU,' she says,
swingin' round toward the rest of the help, 'I--'
"'How 'bout that prophet?' hollers somebody.
"'Three cheers for the Oriental!' bellers somebody else.
"'When you marry the right Butler fetch him along and let us see
him!' whoops another.
"She faced 'em all, and I gloried in her spunk.
"'When I marry him I WILL come back,' says she. 'And when I do
you'll have to get down on your knees and wait on me. You--and
you-- Yes, and YOU, too!'
"The last two 'yous' was hove at Sim and Susannah. Then she turned
and marched into the hotel. And the way them hired hands carried
on was somethin' scandalous--till I stepped in and took charge of
"That very afternoon I put Effie and her trunk aboard the train. I
paid her fare to New York and give her directions how to locate the
"'So long, Effie,' says I to her. 'It's all right. You're enough
sight better off. All you want to do now is to work hard and
forget all that fortune-tellin' foolishness.'
"She whirled on me like a top.
"'Forget it!' she says. 'I GUESS I shan't forget it! It's comin'
true, I tell you--same as all the rest come true. You said
yourself there was ten thousand Butlers in the world. Some day the
right one--the handsome, high-ranked, distinguished one--will come
along, and I'll get him. You wait and see, Mr. Wingate--just you
wait and see.'"
THE "HERO" AND THE COWBOY
"So that was the end of it, hey?" said Captain Bailey. "Well, it's
what you might expect, but it wa'n't much to be so anxious to tell;
and as for PROVIN' anything about fortune tellin'--why--"
"It AIN'T the end," shouted the exasperated Barzilla. "Not nigh
the end. 'Twas the beginnin'. The housekeeper left us that day,
of course, and for the rest of that summer the servant question
kept me and Jonadab from thinkin' of other things. Course, the
reason for the Butler scamp's sudden switch was plain enough.
Susannah's lawyer had settled the case with the railroad and, even
after his fee was subtracted, there was fifteen hundred left. That
was enough sight better'n nine hundred, so Sim figgered when he
heard of it; and he hustled to make up with his old girl.
"Fifteen hundred dollars doesn't last long with some folks. At the
beginnin' of the next spring season both of 'em was round huntin'
jobs. Susannah was a fust-rate waitress, so we hired her for that--
no more housekeeper for hers, and served her right. As for her
husband, we took him on in the stable. He wouldn't have been wuth
his salt if it hadn't been for her. She said she'd keep him movin'
and she did. She nagged and henpecked him till I'd have been sorry
if 'twas anybody else; as 'twas, I got consider'ble satisfaction
out of it.
"I got one letter from Effie pretty soon after she left, sayin' she
liked her new job and that the Van Wedderburns liked her. And
that's all I did hear, though Bob himself wrote me in May, sayin'
him and Mabel, his wife, had bought a summer cottage in Wapatomac,
and me and Jonadab--especially me--must be sure and come to see it
and them. He never mentioned his second girl, and I almost forgot
"But one afternoon in early July a big six-cylinder automobile come
sailin' down the road and into the Old Home House yard. A shofer--
I b'lieve that's what they call the tribe--was at the helm of it,
and on the back seat, lollin' luxurious against the upholstery, was
a man and a woman, got up regardless in silk dusters and goggles
and veils and prosperity. I never expect to see the Prince of
Wales and his wife, but I know how they'd look--after seein' them
"Jonadab was at the bottom step to welcome 'em, bowin' and scrapin'
as if his middle j'int had just been iled. I wa'n't fur astern,
and every boarder on deck was all eyes and envy.
"The shofer opens the door of the after cockpit of the machine, and
the man gets out fust, treadin' gingerly but grand, as if he was
doin' the ground a condescension by steppin' on it. Then he turns
to the woman and she slides out, her duds rustlin' like the wind in
a scrub oak. The pair sails up the steps, Jonadab and me backin'
and fillin' in front of 'em. All the help that could get to a
window to peek had knocked off work to do it.
"'Ahem!' says the man, pompous as Julius Caesar--he was big and
straight and fine lookin' and had black side whiskers half mast on
his cheeks--ahem!' says he. 'I say, good people, may we have
"Well, they tell us time and tide waits for no man, but prob'ly
that don't include the nobility. Anyhow, although 'twas long past
our reg'lar dinner time, I heard Jonadab tellin' 'em sure and
sartin they could. If they wouldn't mind settin' on the piazza or
in the front parlor for a spell, he'd have somethin' prepared in a
jiffy. So up to the piazza they paraded and come to anchor in a
couple of chairs.
"'You can have your automobile put right into the barn,' I says,
'if you want to.'
"'I don't know as it will be necessary--' began the big feller, but
the woman interrupted him. She was starin' through her thick veil
at the barn door. Sim Butler, in his overalls and ragged shirt
sleeves, was leanin' against that door, interested as the rest of
us in what was goin' on.
"'I would have it put there, I think,' says the woman, lofty and
superior. 'It is rather dusty, and I think the wheels ought to be
washed. Can that man be trusted to wash 'em?' she asks, pointin'
kind of scornful at Simeon.
"'Yes, marm, I cal'late so,' I says. 'Here, Sim!' I sung out,
callin' Butler over to the steps. 'Can you wash the dust off them
"He said course he could, but he didn't act joyful over the job.
The woman seemed some doubtful.
"'He looks like a very ignorant, common person,' says she, loud and
clear, so that everybody, includin' the 'ignorant person' himself,
could hear her. 'However, James'll superintend. James,' she
orders the shofer, 'you see that it is well done, won't you? Make
him be very careful.'
"James looked Butler over from head to foot. 'Humph!' he sniffs,
contemptuous, with a kind of half grin on his face. 'Yes, marm,
I'll 'tend to it.'
"So he steered the auto into the barn, and Simeon got busy.
Judgin' by the sharp language that drifted out through the door,
'twas plain that the shofer was superintendin' all right.
"Jonadab heaves in sight, bowin', and makes proclamation that
dinner is served. The pair riz up majestic and headed for the
dinin' room. The woman was a little astern of her man, and in the
hall she turns brisk to me.
"'Mr. Wingate,' she whispers, 'Mr. Wingate.'
"I stared at her. Her voice had sounded sort of familiar ever
sence I heard it, but the veil kept a body from seein' what she
"'Hey?' I sings out. 'Have I ever--'
"'S-s-h-h!' she whispers. 'Say, Mr. Wingate, that--that Susannah
thing is here, ain't she? Have her wait on us, will you, please?'
"And she swept the veil off her face. I choked up and staggered
bang! against the wall. I swan to man if it wa'n't Effie! EFFIE,
in silks and automobiles and gorgeousness!
"Afore I could come to myself the two of 'em marched into that
dining room. I heard a grunt and a 'Land of love!' from just ahead
of me. That was Jonadab. And from all around that dinin' room
come a sort of gasp and then the sound of whisperin'. That was the
"They took a table by the window, which had been made ready. Down
they set like a king and a queen perchin' on thrones. One of the
waiter girls went over to em.
"But I'd come out of my trance a little mite. The situation was
miles ahead of my brain, goodness knows, but the joke of it all was
gettin' a grip on me. I remembered what Effie had asked and I
spoke up prompt.
"'Susannah,' says I, 'this is a particular job and we're anxious to
please. You'd better do the waitin' yourself.'
"I wish you could have seen the glare that ex-housekeeper give me.
For a second I thought we'd have open mutiny. But her place wa'n't
any too sartin and she didn't dare risk it. Over she walked to
that table, and the fun began.
"Jonadab had laid himself out to make that meal a success, but they
ate it as if 'twas pretty poor stuff and not by no means what they
fed on every day. They found fault with 'most everything, but most
especial with Susannah's waitin'. My! how they did order her
around--a mate on a cattle boat wa'n't nothin' to it. And when
'twas all over and they got up to go, Effie says, so's all hands
"'The food here is not so bad, but the service--oh, horrors!
However, Albert,' says she to the side-whiskered man, 'you had
better give the girl our usual tip. She looks as if she needed it,
"Then they paraded out of the room, and I see Susannah sling the
half dollar the man had left on the table clear to Jericho, it
"The auto was waitin' by the piazza steps. The shofer and Butler
was standin' by it. And when Sim see Effie with her veil throwed
back he pretty nigh fell under the wheels he'd been washin' so
hard. And he looked as if he wisht they'd run over him.
"'Oh, dear!' sighs Effie, lookin' scornful at the wheels. 'Not
half clean, just as I expected. I knew by the looks of that--that
PERSON that he wouldn't do it well. Don't give him much, Albert;
he ain't earned it.'
"They climbed into the cockpit, the shofer took the helm, and they
was ready to start. But I couldn't let 'em go that way. Out I
"'Say--say, Effie!' I whispers, eager. 'For the goodness' sakes,
what's all this mean? Is that your--your--'
"'My husband? Yup,' she whispers back, her eyes shinin'. 'Didn't
I tell you to look out for my prophecy? Ain't he handsome and
distinguished, just as I said? Good-by, Mr. Wingate; maybe I'll
see you again some day.'
"The machinery barked and they got under way. I run along for two
"'But, Effie,' says I, 'tell me--is his name--?'
"She didn't answer. She was watchin' Sim Butler and his wife. Sim
had stooped to pick up the quarter the Prince of Wales had hove at
him. And that was too much for Susannah, who was watchin' from the
"'Don't you touch that money!' she screams. 'Don't you lay a
finger on it! Ain't you got any self-respect at all, you
miser'ble, low-lived--' and so forth and so on. All the way to the
front gate I see Effie leanin' out, lookin' and listenin' and
"Then the machine buzzed off in a typhoon of dust and I went back
to Jonadab, who was a livin' catechism of questions which neither
one of us could answer."
"So THAT'S the end!" exclaimed Captain Bailey. "Well--"
"No, it ain't the end--not even yet. Maybe it ought to be, but it
ain't. There's a little more of it.
"A fortni't later I took a couple of days off and went up to
Wapatomac to visit the Van Wedderburns, same as I'd promised.
Their 'cottage' was pretty nigh big enough for a hotel, and was so
grand that I, even if I did have on my Sunday frills, was 'most
ashamed to ring the doorbell.
"But I did ring it, and the feller that opened the door was big and
solemn and fine lookin' and had side whiskers. Only this time he
wore a tail coat with brass buttons on it.
"How do you do, Mr. Wingate?' says he. Step right in, sir, if you
please. Mr. and Mrs. Van Wedderburn are out in the auto, but
they'll be back shortly, and very glad to see you, sir, I'm sure.
Let me take your grip and hat. Step right into the reception room
and wait, if you please, sir. Perhaps,' he says, and there was a
twinkle in his port eye, though the rest of his face was sober as
the front door of a church, 'perhaps,' says he, 'you might wish to
speak with my wife a moment. I'll take the liberty of sendin' her
to you, sir.'
"So, as I sat on the gunwale of a blue and gold chair, tryin' to
settle whether I was really crazy or only just dreamin', in bounces
Effie, rigged up in a servant's cap and apron. She looked polite
and demure, but I could see she was just bubblin' with the joy of
the whole bus'ness.
"'Effie,' says I, 'Effie, what--what in the world--?'
"She giggled. 'Yup,' she says, 'I'm chambermaid here and they
treat me fine. Thank you very much for gettin' me the situation.'
"'But--but them doin's the other day? That automobile--and them
silks and satins--and--?'
"'Mr. Van Wedderburn lent 'em to me,' she said, 'him an' his wife.
And he lent us the auto and the shofer, too. I told him about my
troubles at the Old Home House and he thought 'twould be a great
joke for me to travel back there like a lady. He's awful fond of a
joke--Mr. Van Wedderburn is.'
"'But that man?' I gasps. 'Your husband? That's what you said he
"'Yes,' says she, 'he is. We've been married 'most six months now.
My prophecy's all come true. And DIDN'T I rub it in on that
Susannah Debs and her scamp of a Sim? Ho! ho!'
"She clapped her hands and pretty nigh danced a jig, she was so
"'But is he a Butler?' I asks.
"'Yup,' she nods, with another giggle. 'He's A butler, though his
name's Jenkins; and a butler's high rank--higher than chambermaid,
anyhow. You see, Mr. Wingate,' she adds, ''twas all my fault.
When that Oriental Seer man at the show said I was to marry a
butler, I forgot to ask him whether you spelt it with a big B or a
The unexpected manner in which Effie's pet prophecy had been
fulfilled amused Captain Sol immensely. He laughed so heartily
that Issy McKay looked in at the door with an expression of alarm
on his face. The depot master had laughed little during the past
few days, and Issy was surprised.
But Captain Stitt was ready with a denial. He claimed that the
prophecy was NOT fulfilled and therefore all fortune telling was
fraudulent. Barzilla retorted hotly, and the argument began again.
The two were shouting at each other. Captain Sol stood it for a
while and then commanded silence.
"Stop your yellin'!" he ordered. "What ails you fellers? Think
you can prove it better by screechin'? They can hear you half a
mile. There's Cornelius Rowe standin' gawpin' on the other side of
the street this minute. He thinks there's a fire or a riot, one or
t'other. Let's change the subject. See here, Bailey, didn't you
start to tell us somethin' last time you was in here about your
ridin' in an automobile?"
"I started to--yes. But nobody'd listen. I rode in one and I
sailed in one. You see--"
"I'm goin' outdoor," declared Barzilla.
"No, you're not. Bailey listened to you. Now you do as much for
him. I heard a little somethin' about the affair at the time it
happened and I'd like to hear the rest of it. How was it, Bailey?"
Captain Stitt knocked the ashes from his pipe.
"Well," he began, "I didn't know the critter was weak in his top
riggin' or I wouldn't have gone with him in the fust place. And he
wa'n't real loony, nuther. 'Twas only when he got aboard that--
that ungodly, kerosene-smellin', tootin', buzzin', Old Harry's
gocart of his that the craziness begun to show. There's so many of
them weak-minded city folks from the Ocean House comes perusin'
'round summers, nowadays, that I cal'lated he was just an average
specimen, and never examined him close."
"Are all the Ocean House boarders weak-minded nowadays?" asked the
Mr. Wingate answered the question.
"My land!" he snapped; "would they board at the Ocean House if they
Captain Bailey did not deign to reply to this jibe. He continued
"This feller wa'n't an Ocean Houser, though. He was young
Stumpton's automobile skipper-shover, or shofer, or somethin' they
called him. He answered to the hail of Billings, and his home port
was the Stumpton ranch, 'way out in Montana. He'd been here in
Orham only a couple of weeks, havin' come plumb across the United
States to fetch his boss the new automobile. You see, 'twas early
October. The Stumptons had left their summer place on the Cliff
Road, and was on their way South for the winter. Young Stumpton
was up to Boston, but he was comin' back in a couple of days, and
then him and the shover was goin' automobilin' to Florida. To
Florida, mind you! In that thing! If it was me I'd buy my ticket
to Tophet direct and save time and money.
"Well, anyhow, this critter Billings, he ain't never smelt salt
water afore, and he don't like the smell. He makes proclamations
that Orham is nothin' but sand, slush, and soft drinks. He won't
sail, he can't swim, he won't fish; but he's hankerin' to shoot
somethin', havin' been brought up in a place where if you don't
shoot some of the neighbors every day or so folks think you're
stuck up and dissociable. Then somebody tells him it's the duckin'
season down to Setuckit P'int, and he says he'll spend his day off,
while the boss is away, massycreein' the coots there. This same
somebody whispers that I know so much about ducks that I quack when
I talk, and he comes cruisin' over in the buzz cart to hire me for
guide. And--would you b'lieve it?--it turns out that he's
cal'latin' to make his duckin' v'yage in that very cart. I was for
makin' the trip in a boat, like a sensible man, but he wouldn't
hear of it.
"'Land of love!' says I. 'Go to Setuckit in a automobile?'
"'Why not?' he says. 'The biscuit shooter up at the hotel tells me
there's a smart chance of folks goes there a-horseback. And where
a hoss can travel I reckon the old gal here'--slappin' the thwart
of the auto alongside of him--'can go, too!'
"'But there's the Cut-through,' says I.
"''Tain't nothin' but a creek when the freshet's over, they tell
me,' says he. 'And me and the boss have forded four foot of river
in this very machine.'
"By the 'freshet' bein' over I judged he meant the tide bein' out.
And the Cut-through ain't but a little trickle then, though it's a
quarter mile wide and deep enough to float a schooner at high
water. It's the strip of channel that makes Setuckit Beach an
island, you know. The gov'ment has had engineers down dredgin' of
it out, and pretty soon fish boats'll be able to save the twenty-
mile sail around the P'int and into Orham Harbor at all hours.
"Well, to make a long story short, I agreed to let him cart me to
Setuckit P'int in that everlastin' gas carryall. We was to start
at four o'clock in the afternoon, 'cause the tide at the Cut-
through would be dead low at half-past four. We'd stay overnight
at my shanty at the P'int, get up airly, shoot all day, and come
back the next afternoon.
"At four prompt he was on hand, ready for me. I loaded in the guns
and grub and one thing or 'nother, and then 'twas time for me to
get aboard myself.
"'You'll set in the tonneau,' says he, indicatin' the upholstered
after cockpit of the concern. I opened up the shiny hatch, under
orders from him, and climbed in among the upholstery. 'Twas soft
as a feather bed.
"'Jerushy!' says I, lollin' back luxurious. This is fine, ain't
"'Cost seventy-five hundred to build,' he says casual. 'Made to
order for the boss. Lightest car of her speed ever turned out.'
"'Go 'way! How you talk! Seventy-five hundred what? Not
"'Sure,' he says. Then he turns round--he was in the bow, hangin'
on to the steerin' wheel--and looks me over, kind of interested,
but superior. 'Say,' he says, 'I've been hearin' things about you.
You're a hero, ain't you?'
"Durn them Orham gabblers! Ever sence I hauled that crew of
seasick summer boarders out of the drink a couple of years ago and
the gov'ment gave me a medal, the minister and some more of his
gang have painted out the name I was launched under and had me
entered on the shippin' list as 'The Hero.' I've licked two or
three for callin' me that, but I can't lick a parson, and he was
the one that told Billings.
"'Oh, I don't know!' I answers pretty sharp. 'Get her under way,
why don't you?'
"All he done was look me over some more and grin.
"'A hero! A real live gov'ment-branded hero!' he says. 'Ain't
scared of nothin', I reckon--hey?'
"I never made no answer. There's some things that's too fresh to
eat without salt, and I didn't have a pickle tub handy.
"'Hum!' he says again, reverend-like. 'A sure hero; scared of
nothin'! Never rode in an auto afore, did you?'
"'No,' says I, peppery; 'and I don't see no present symptom of
ridin' in one now. Cast off, won't you?'
"He cast off. That is to say, he hauled a nickel-plated
marlinespike thing toward him, shoved another one away from him,
took a twist on the steerin' wheel, the gocart coughed like a horse
with the heaves, started up some sort of buzz-planer underneath,
and then we begun to move.
"From the time we left my shanty at South Orham till we passed the
pines at Herrin' Neck I laid back in that stuffed cockpit, feelin'
as grand and tainted as old John D. himself. The automobile rolled
along smooth but swift, and it seemed to me I had never known what
easy trav'lin' was afore. As we rounded the bend by the pines and
opened up the twelve-mile narrow white stretch of Setuckit Beach
ahead of us, with the ocean on one side and the bay on t'other, I
looked at my watch. We'd come that fur in thirteen minutes.
"'Land sakes!' I says. 'This is what I call movin' right along!'
"He turned round and sized me up again, like he was surprised.
"'Movin'?' says he. 'Movin'? Why, pard, we've been settin' down
to rest! Out our way, if a lynchin' party didn't move faster than
we've done so fur, the center of attraction would die on the road
of old age. Now, my heroic college chum,' he goes on, callin' me
out of my name, as usual, 'will you be so condescendin' as to
indicate how we hit the trail?'
"'Hit--hit which? Don't hit nothin', for goodness' sake! Goin'
the way we be, it would--'
"'Which way do we go?'
"'Right straight ahead. Keep on the ocean side, 'cause there's
more hard sand there, and--hold on! Don't do that! Stop it, I
"Them was the last rememberable words said by me durin' the next
quarter of an hour. That shover man let out a hair-raisin' yell,
hauled the nickel marlinespike over in its rack, and squeezed a
rubber bag that was spliced to the steerin' wheel. There was a
half dozen toots or howls or honks from under our bows somewheres,
and then that automobile hopped off the ground and commenced to
fly. The fust hop landed me on my knees in the cockpit, and there
I stayed. 'Twas the most fittin' position fur my frame of mind and
chimed in fust-rate with the general religious drift of my
"The Cut-through is two mile or more from Herrin' Neck. 'Cordin'
to my count we hit terra cotta just three times in them two miles.
The fust hit knocked my hat off. The second one chucked me up so
high I looked back for the hat, and though we was a half mile away
from it, it hadn't had time to git to the ground. And all the
while the horn was a-honkin', and Billings was a-screechin, and the
sand was a-flyin'. Sand! Why, say! Do you see that extra bald
place on the back of my head? Yes? Well, there was a two-inch
thatch of hair there afore that sand blast ground it off.
"When I went up on the third jounce I noticed the Cut-through just
ahead. Billings see it, too, and--would you b'lieve it?--the
lunatic stood up, let go of the wheel with one hand, takes off his
hat and waves it, and we charge down across them wet tide flats
like death on the woolly horse, in Scriptur'.
"'Hi, yah! Yip!' whoops Billings. 'Come on in, fellers! The
water's fine! Yow! Y-e-e-e! Yip!'
"For a second it left off rainin' sand, and there was a typhoon of
mud and spray. I see a million of the prettiest rainbows--that is,
I cal'lated there was a million; it's awful hard to count when
you're bouncin' and prayin' and drowndin' all to once. Then we
sizzed out of the channel, over the flats on t'other side, and on
"Never mind the rest of the ride. 'Twas all a sort of constant
changin' sameness. I remember passin' a blurred life-savin'
station, with three--or maybe thirty--blurred men jumpin' and
laughin' and hollerin'. I found out afterwards that they'd been on
the lookout for the bombshell for half an hour. Billings had told
around town what he was goin' to do to me, and some kind friend had
telephoned it to the station. So the life-savers was full of
anticipations. I hope they were satisfied. I hadn't rehearsed my
part of the show none, but I feel what the parson calls a
consciousness of havin' done my best.
"'Whoa, gal!' says Billings, calm and easy, puttin' the helm hard
down. The auto was standin' still at last. Part of me was hangin'
over the lee rail. I could see out of the part, so I knew 'twas my
head. And there alongside was my fish shanty at the P'int, goin'
round and round in circles.
"I undid the hatch of the cockpit and fell out on the sand. Then I
scrambled up and caught hold of the shanty as it went past me.
That fool shover watched me, seemin'ly interested.
"'Why, pard,' says he, 'what's the matter? Do you feel pale? Are
you nervous? It ain't possible that you're scared? Honest, now,
pard, if it weren't that I knew you were a genuine gold-mounted
hero I'd sure think you was a scared man.'
"I never said nothin'. The scenery and me was just turnin' the
mark buoy on our fourth lap.
"'Dear me, pard!' continues Billings. 'I sure hope I ain't scared
you none. We come down a little slow this evenin', but to-morrow
night, when I take you back home, I'll let the old girl out a
"I sensed some of that. And as the shanty had about come to
anchor, I answered and spoke my mind.
"'When you take me back home!' I says. 'When you do! Why, you
crack-brained, murderin' lunatic, I wouldn't cruise in that hell
wagon of yours again for the skipper's wages on a Cunarder. No,
nor the mate's hove in!'
"And that shover he put his head back and laughed and laughed and
THE CRUISE OF THE RED CAR
"I don't wonder he laughed," observed Wingate, who seemed to enjoy
irritating his friend. "You must have been good as a circus."
"Humph!" grunted the depot master. "If I remember right you said
YOU wa'n't any ten-cent side show under similar circumstances,
Barzilla. Heave ahead, Bailey!"
Captain Stitt, unruffled, resumed:
"I tell you, I had to take it that evenin'," he said. "All the
time I was cookin' and while he was eatin' supper, Billings was
rubbin' it into me about my bein' scared. Called me all the
saltwater-hero names he could think of--'Hobson' and 'Dewey' and
the like of that, usin' em sarcastic, of course. Finally, he said
he remembered readin' in school, when he was little, about a girl
hero, name of Grace Darlin'. Said he cal'lated, if I didn't mind,
he'd call me Grace, 'cause it was heroic and yet kind of fitted in
with my partic'lar brand of bravery. I didn't answer much; he had
me down, and I knew it. Likewise I judged he was more or less out
of his head; no sane man would yell the way he done aboard that
"Then he commenced to spin yarns about himself and his doin's, and
pretty soon it come out that he'd been a cowboy afore young
Stumpton give up ranchin' and took to automobilin'. That cleared
the sky line some, of course; I'd read consider'ble about cowboys
in the ten-cent books my nephew fetched home when he was away to
school. I see right off that Billings was the livin' image of
Deadwood Dick and Wild Bill and the rest in them books; they yelled
and howled and hadn't no regard for life and property any more'n he
had. No, sir! He wa'n't no crazier'n they was; it was in the
breed, I judged.
"'I sure wish I had you on the ranch, Grace,' says he. 'Why don't
you come West some day? That's where a hero like you would show up
"'Godfrey mighty!' I sings out. 'I wouldn't come nigh such a nest
of crazy murderers as that fur no money! I'd sooner ride in that
automobile of yours, and St. Peter himself couldn't coax me into
THAT again, not if 'twas fur a cruise plumb up the middle of the
"I meant it, too, and the next afternoon when it come time to start
for home he found out that I meant it. We'd shot a lot of ducks,
and Billings was havin' such a good time that I had to coax and
tease him as if he was a young one afore he'd think of quittin'.
It was quarter of six when he backed the gas cart out of the shed.
I was uneasy, 'cause 'twas past low-water time, and there was fog
"'Brace up, Dewey!' says he. 'Get in.'
"'No, Mr. Billings,' says I. 'I ain't goin' to get in. You take
that craft of yourn home, and I'll sail up alongside in my dory.'
"'In your which?' says he.
"'In my dory,' I says. 'That's her hauled up on the beach abreast
"He looked at the dory and then at me.
"'Go on!' says he. 'You ain't goin' to pack yourself twelve mile
on THAT SHINGLE?'
"'Sartin I am! says I. 'I ain't takin' no more chances.'
"Do you know, he actually seemed to think I was crazy then. Seemed
to figger that the dory wa'n't big enough; and she's carried five
easy afore now. We had an argument that lasted twenty minutes
more, and the fog driftin' in nigher all the time. At last he got
sick of arguin', ripped out somethin' brisk and personal, and got
his tin shop to movin'.
"'You want to cross over to the ocean side,' I called after him.
'The Cut-through's been dredged at the bay end, remember.'
"'Be hanged!' he yells, or more emphatic. And off he whizzed. I
see him go, and fetched a long breath. Thanks to a merciful
Providence, I'd come so fur without bein' buttered on the
undercrust of that automobile or scalped with its crazy shover's
"Ten minutes later I was beatin' out into the bay in my dory. All
around was the fog, thin as poorhouse gruel so fur, but thickenin'
every minute. I was worried; not for myself, you understand, but
for that cowboy shover. I was afraid he wouldn't fetch t'other
side of the Cut-through. There wa'n't much wind, and I had to make
long tacks. I took the inshore channel, and kept listenin' all the
time. And at last, when 'twas pretty dark and I was cal'latin' to
be about abreast of the bay end of the Cut-through, I heard from
somewheres ashore a dismal honkin' kind of noise, same as a wild
goose might make if 'twas chokin' to death and not resigned to the
"'My land!' says I. 'It's happened!' And I come about and headed
straight in for the beach. I struck it just alongside the gov'ment
shanty. The engineers had knocked off work for the week, waitin'
for supplies, but they hadn't took away their dunnage.
"'Hi!' I yells, as I hauled up the dory. 'Hi-i-i! Billings, where
"The honkin' stopped and back comes the answer; there was joy in
"'What? Is that Cap'n Stitt?'
"'Yes,' I sings out. 'Where be you?'
"'I'm stuck out here in the middle of the crick. And there's a
flood on. Help me, can't you?'
"Next minute I was aboard the dory, rowin' her against the tide up
the channel. Pretty quick I got where I could see him through the
fog and dark. The auto was on the flat in the middle of the Cut-
through, and the water was hub high already. Billings was standin'
up on the for'ard thwart, makin' wet footmarks all over them
"'Lord,' says he, 'I sure am glad to see you, pard! Can we get to
land, do you think?'
"'Land?' says I, makin' the dory fast alongside and hoppin' out
into the drink. ''Course we can land! What's the matter with your
old derelict? Sprung a leak, has it?'
"He went on to explain that the automobile had broke down when he
struck the flat, and he couldn't get no farther. He'd been honkin'
and howlin' for ten year at least, so he reckoned.
"'Why in time,' says I, 'didn't you mind me and go up the ocean
side? And why in nation didn't you go ashore and-- But never mind
that now. Let me think. Here! You set where you be.'
"As I shoved off in the dory again he turned loose a distress
"'Where you goin'?' he yells. 'Say, pard, you ain't goin' to leave
me here, are you?'
"'I'll be back in a shake,' says I, layin' to my oars. 'Don't
holler so! You'll have the life-savers down here, and then the
joke'll be on us. Hush, can't you? I'll be right back!'
"I rowed up channel a little ways, and then I sighted the place I
was bound for. Them gov'ment folks had another shanty farther up
the Cut-through. Moored out in front of it was a couple of big
floats, for their stone sloops to tie up to at high water. The
floats were made of empty kerosene barrels and planks, and they'd
have held up a house easy. I run alongside the fust one, cut the
anchor cable with my jackknife, and next minute I was navigatin'
that float down channel, steerin' it with my oar and towin' the
"'Twas no slouch of a job, pilotin' that big float, but part by
steerin' and part by polin' I managed to land her broadside on to
the auto. I made her fast with the cable ends and went back after
the other float. This one was a bigger job than the fust, but by
and by that gas wagon, with planks under her and cable lashin's
holdin' her firm, was restin' easy as a settin' hen between them
two floats. I unshipped my mast, fetched it aboard the nighest
float, and spread the sail over the biggest part of the brasswork
"'There,' says I, 'if it rains durin' the night she'll keep pretty
dry. Now I'll take the dory and row back to the shanty after some
spare anchors there is there.'
"'But what's it fur, pard?' asks Billings for the nine hundred and
ninety-ninth time. 'Why don't we go where it's dry? The flood's
risin' all the time.'
"'Let it rise,' I says. 'I cal'late when it gets high enough them
floats'll rise with it and lift the automobile up, too. If she's
anchored bow and stern she'll hold, unless it comes on to blow a
gale, and to-morrow mornin' at low tide maybe you can tinker her up
so she'll go.'
"'Go?' says he, like he was astonished. 'Do you mean to say you're
reckonin' to save the CAR?'
"'Good land!' I says, starin' at him. 'What else d'you s'pose?
Think I'd let seventy-five hundred dollars' wuth of gilt-edged
extravagance go to the bottom? What did you cal'late I was tryin'
to save--the clam flat? Give me that dory rope; I'm goin' after
them anchors. Sufferin' snakes! Where IS the dory? What have you
done with it?'
"He'd been holdin' the bight of the dory rodin'. I handed it to
him so's he'd have somethin' to take up his mind. And, by time,
he'd forgot all about it and let it drop! And the dory had gone
adrift and was out of sight.
"'Gosh!' says he, astonished-like. 'Pard, the son of a gun has
slipped his halter!'
"I was pretty mad--dories don't grow on every beach plum bush--but
there wa'n't nothin' to say that fitted the case, so I didn't try.
"'Humph!' says I. 'Well, I'll have to swim ashore, that's all, and
go up to the station inlet after another boat. You stand by the
ship. If she gets afloat afore I come back you honk and holler and
I'll row after you. I'll fetch the anchors and we'll moor her
wherever she happens to be. If she shouldn't float on an even
keel, or goes to capsize, you jump overboard and swim ashore.
"'Swim?' says he, with a shake in his voice. 'Why, pard, I can't
"I turned and looked at him. Shover of a two-mile-a-minute gold-
plated butcher cart like that, a cowboy murderer that et his
friends for breakfast--and couldn't swim! I fetched a kind of
combination groan and sigh, turned back the sail, climbed aboard
the automobile, and lit up my pipe.
"'What are you settin' there for?' says he. 'What are you goin' to
"'Do?' says I. 'Wait, that's all--wait and smoke. We won't have
to wait long.'
"My prophesyin' was good. We didn't have to wait very long. It
was pitch dark, foggy as ever, and the tide a-risin' fast. The
floats got to be a-wash. I shinned out onto 'em, picked up the oar
that had been left there, and took my seat again. Billings climbed
in, too, only--and it kind of shows the change sence the previous
evenin'--he was in the passenger cockpit astern, and I was for'ard
in the pilot house. For a reckless daredevil he was actin' mighty
"And at last one of the floats swung off the sand. The automobile
tipped scandalous. It looked as if we was goin' on our beam ends.
Billings let out an awful yell. Then t'other float bobbed up and
the whole shebang, car and all, drifted out and down the channel.
"My lashin's held--I cal'lated they would. Soon's I was sure of
that I grabbed up the oar and shoved it over the stern between the
floats. I hoped I could round her to after we passed the mouth of
the Cut-through, and make port on the inside beach. But not in
that tide. Inside of five minutes I see 'twas no use; we was bound
across the bay.
"And now commenced a v'yage that beat any ever took sence Noah's
time, I cal'late; and even Noah never went to sea in an automobile,
though the one animal I had along was as much trouble as his whole
menagerie. Billings was howlin' blue murder.
"'Stop that bellerin'!' I ordered. 'Quit it, d'you hear! You'll
have the station crew out after us, and they'll guy me till I can't
rest. Shut up! If you don't, I'll--I'll swim ashore and leave
"I was takin' big chances, as I look at it now. He might have
drawed a bowie knife or a lasso on me; 'cordin' to his yarns he'd
butchered folks for a good sight less'n that. But he kept quiet
this time, only gurglin' some when the ark tilted. I had time to
think of another idee. You remember the dory sail, mast and all,
was alongside that cart. I clewed up the canvas well as I could
and managed to lash the mast up straight over the auto's bows.
Then I shook out the sail.
"'Here!' says I, turnin' to Billings. 'You hang on to that sheet.
No, you needn't nuther. Make it fast to that cleat alongside.'
"I couldn't see his face plain, but his voice had a funny tremble
to it; reminded me of my own when I climbed out of that very cart
after he'd jounced me down to Setuckit the day before.
"'What?' he says. 'Wh-what? What sheet? I don't see any sheet.
What do you want me to do?'
"'Tie this line to that cleat. That cleat there! CLEAT, you
lubber! CLEAT! That knob! MAKE IT FAST! Oh, my gosh t'mighty!
Get out of my way!'
"The critter had tied the sheet to the handle of the door instead
of the one I meant, and the pull of the sail hauled the door open
and pretty nigh ripped it off the hinges. I had to climb into the
cockpit and straighten out the mess. I was losin' my temper; I do
hate bunglin' seamanship aboard a craft of mine.
"'But what'll become of us?' begs Billings. 'Will we drown?'
"'What in tunket do we want to drown for? Ain't we got a good
sailin' breeze and the whole bay to stay on top of--fifty foot of
water and more?'
"'Fifty foot!' he yells. 'Is there fifty foot of water underneath
us now? Pard, you don't mean it!'
"'Course I mean it. Good thing, too!'
"'But fifty foot! It's enough to drown in ten times over!'
"'Can't drown but once, can you? And I'd just as soon drown in
fifty foot as four--ruther, 'cause 'twouldn't take so long.'
"He didn't answer out loud; but I heard him talkin' to himself
"We was well out in the bay by now, and the seas was a little mite
more rugged--nothin' to hurt, you understand, but the floats was
all foam, and once in a while we'd ship a little spray. And every
time that happened Billings would jump and grab for somethin'
solid--sometimes 'twas the upholstery and sometimes 'twas me. He
wa'n't on the thwart, but down in a heap on the cockpit floor.
"'Let go of my leg!' I sings out, after we'd hit a high wave and
that shover had made a more'n ordinary savage claw at my
underpinnin'. 'You make me nervous. Drat this everlastin' fog!
somethin'll bump into us if we don't look out. Here, you go
for'ard and light them cruisin' lights. They ain't colored
'cordin' to regulations, but they'll have to do. Go for'ard! What
you waitin' for?'
"Well, it turned out that he didn't like to leave that cockpit. I
"'Go for'ard there and light them lights!' I yelled, hangin' to the
steerin' oar and keepin' the ark runnin' afore the wind.
"'I won't!' he says, loud and emphatic. 'Think I'm a blame fool?
I sure would be a jack rabbit to climb over them seats the way
they're buckin' and light them lamps. You're talkin' through your
"Well, I hadn't no business to do it, but, you see, I was on salt
water, and skipper, as you might say, of the junk we was afloat in;
and if there's one thing I never would stand it's mutiny. I hauled
in the oar, jumped over the cockpit rail, and went for him. He see
me comin', stood up, tried to get out of the way, and fell
overboard backwards. Part of him lit on one of the floats, but the
biggest part trailed in the water between the two. He clawed with
his hands, but the planks was slippery, and he slid astern fast.
Just as he reached the last plank and slid off and under I jumped
after him and got him by the scruff of the neck. I had hold of the
lashin' end with one hand, and we tailed out behind the ark, which
was sloppin' along, graceful as an elephant on skates.
"I was pretty well beat out when I yanked him into that cockpit
again. Neither of us said anything for a spell, breath bein'
scurce as di'monds. But when he'd collected some of his, he spoke.
"'Pard,' he says, puffin', 'I'm much obleeged to you. I reckon I
sure ain't treated you right. If it hadn't been for you that time
"But I was b'ilin' over. I whirled on him like a teetotum.
"'Drat your hide!' I says. 'When you speak to your officer you say
sir! And now you go for'ard and light them lights. Don't you
answer back! If you do I'll fix you so's you'll never ship aboard
another vessel! For'ard there! Lively, you lubber, lively!'
"He went for'ard, takin' consider'ble time and hangin' on for dear
life. But somehow or 'nuther he got the lights to goin'; and all
the time I hazed him terrible. I was mate on an Australian packet
afore I went fishin' to the Banks, and I can haze some. I
blackguarded that shover awful.
"'Ripperty-rip your everlastin' blankety-blanked dough head!' I
roared at him. 'You ain't wuth the weight to sink you. For'ard
there and get that fog horn to goin'! And keep it goin'! Lively,
you sculpin! Don't you open your mouth to me!'
"Well, all night we sloshed along, straight acrost the bay. We
must have been a curious sight to look at. The floats was awash,
so that the automobile looked like she was ridin' the waves all by
her lonesome; the lamps was blazin' at either side of the bow;
Billings was a-tootin' the rubber fog horn as if he was wound up;
and I was standin' on the cushions amidships, keepin' the whole
calabash afore the wind.
"We never met another craft the whole night through. Yes, we did
meet one. Old Ezra Cahoon, of Harniss, was out in his dory
stealin' quahaugs from Seth Andrews's bed over nigh the Wapatomac
shore. Ezra stayed long enough to get one good glimpse of us as we
bust through the fog; then he cut his rodin' and laid to his oars,
bound for home and mother. We could hear him screech for half an
hour after he left us.
"Ez told next day that the devil had come ridin' acrost the bay
after him in a chariot of fire. Said he could smell the brimstone
and hear the trumpet callin' him to judgment. Likewise he hove in
a lot of particulars concernin' the personal appearance of the Old
Boy himself, who, he said, was standin' up wavin' a red-hot
pitchfork. Some folks might have been flattered at bein' took for
such a famous character; but I wa'n't; I'm retirin' by nature, and
besides, Ez's description wa'n't cal'lated to bust a body's vanity
b'iler. I was prouder of the consequences, the same bein' that
Ezra signed the Good Templars' pledge that afternoon, and kept it
for three whole months, just sixty-nine days longer than any
previous attack within the memory of man had lasted.
"And finally, just as mornin' was breakin', the bows of the floats
slid easy and slick up on a hard, sandy beach. Then the sun riz
and the fog lifted, and there we was within sight of the South
Ostable meetin'-house. We'd sailed eighteen miles in that ark and
made a better landin' blindfold than we ever could have made on
"I hauled down the sail, unshipped the mast, and jumped ashore to
find a rock big enough to use for a makeshift anchor. It wa'n't
more'n three minutes after we fust struck afore my boots hit dry
ground, but Billings beat me one hundred and seventy seconds, at
that. When I had time to look at that shover man he was a cable's
length from high-tide mark, settin' down and grippin' a bunch of
beach grass as if he was afeard the sand was goin' to slide from
under him; and you never seen a yallerer, more upset critter in
your born days.
"Well, I got the ark anchored, after a fashion, and then we walked
up to the South Ostable tavern. Peleg Small, who runs the place,
he knows me, so he let me have a room and I turned in for a nap. I
slept about three hours. When I woke up I started out to hunt the
automobile and Billings. Both of 'em looked consider'ble better
than they had when I see 'em last. The shover had got a gang of
men and they'd got the gas cart ashore, and Billings and a
blacksmith was workin' over--or rather under--the clockwork.
"'Hello!' I hails, comin' alongside.
"Billings sticks his head out from under the tinware.
"'Hi, pard!' says he. I noticed he hadn't called me 'Grace' nor
'Dewey' for a long spell. Hi, pard,' he says, gettin' to his feet,
'the old gal ain't hurt a hair. She'll be good as ever in a couple
of hours. Then you and me can start for Orham.'
"'In HER?' says I.
"'Sure,' he says.
"'Not by a jugful!' says I, emphatic. 'I'll borrer a boat to get
to Orham in, when I'm ready to go. You won't ketch me in that man
killer again; and you can call me a coward all you want to!'
"'A coward?' says he. 'You a coward? And-- Why, you was in that
car all night!'
"'Oh!' I says. 'Last night was diff'rent. The thing was on water
then, and when I've got enough water underneath me I know I'm
"'Safe!' he sings out. 'SAFE! Well, by--gosh! Pard, I hate to
say it, but it's the Lord's truth--you had me doin' my "Now I lay
"For a minute we looked at each other. Then says I, sort of
thinkin' out loud, 'I cal'late,' I says, 'that whether a man's
brave or not depends consider'ble on whether he's used to his
latitude. It's all accordin'. It lays in the bringin' up, as the
duck said when the hen tried to swim.'
"He nodded solemn. 'Pard,' says he, 'I sure reckon you've called
the turn. Let's shake hands on it.'
"So we shook; and . . ."
Captain Bailey stopped short and sprang from his chair. "There's
my train comin'," he shouted. "Good-by, Sol! So long, Barzilla!
Keep away from fortune tellers and pretty servant girls or YOU'LL
be gettin' married pretty soon. Good-by."
He darted out of the waiting room and his companions followed. Mr.
Wingate, having a few final calls to make, left the station soon
afterwards and did not return until evening. And that evening he
heard news which surprised him.
As he and Captain Sol were exchanging a last handshake on the
platform, Barzilla said:
"Well, Sol, I've enjoyed loafin' around here and yarnin' with you,
same as I always do. I'll be over again in a month or so and we'll
have some more."
The Captain shook his head. "I may not be here then, Barzilla," he
"May not be here? What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that I don't know exactly where I shall be. I shan't be
depot master, anyway."
"Shan't be depot master? YOU won't? Why, what on airth--"
"I sent in my resignation four days ago. Nobody knows it, except
you, not even Issy, but the new depot master for East Harniss will
be here to take my place on the mornin' of the twelfth, that's two
"Why! Why! SOL!"
"Yes. Keep mum about it. I'll--I'll let you know what I decide to
do. I ain't settled it myself yet. Good-by, Barzilla."
The following morning, at nine o'clock, Issy McKay sat upon the
heap of rusty chain cable outside the blacksmith's shop at Denboro,
reading, as usual, a love story. Issy was taking a "day off." He
had begged permission of Captain Sol Berry, the permission had been
granted, and Issy had come over to Denboro, the village eight miles
above East Harniss, in his "power dory," or gasoline boat, the Lady
May. The Lady May was a relic of the time before Issy was
assistant depot master, when he gained a precarious living by
quahauging, separating the reluctant bivalve from its muddy house
on the bay bottom with an iron rake, the handle of which was forty
feet long. Issy had been seized with a desire to try quahauging
once more, hence his holiday. The rake was broken and he had put
in at Denboro to have it fixed. While the blacksmith was busy,
Issy laboriously spelled out the harrowing chapters of "Vivian, the
Shop Girl; or Lord Lyndhurst's Lowly Love."
A grinning, freckled face peered cautiously around the corner of
the blacksmith's front fence. Then an overripe potato whizzed
through the air and burst against the shop wall a few inches from
the reader's head. Issy jumped.
"You--you everlastin' young ones, you!" he shouted fiercely. "If I
git my hands onto you, you'll wish you'd--I see you hidin' behind
Two barefooted little figures danced provokingly in the roadway and
two shrill voices chanted in derision:
"Is McKay--Is McKay--
Makes the Injuns run away!
Scalped anybody lately, Issy?
Alas for the indiscretions of youth! The tale of Issy's early
expedition in search of scalps and glory was known from one end of
Ostable County to the other. It had made him famous, in a way.
"If I git a-holt of you kids, I'll bet there'll be some scalpin'
done," retorted the persecuted one, rising from the heap of cable.
A second potato burst like a bombshell on the shingles behind him.
McKay was a good general, in that he knew when it was wisest to
retreat. Shoving the paper novel into his overalls pocket, he
entered the shop.
"What's the matter, Is?" inquired the grinning blacksmith. Most
people grinned when they spoke to Issy. "Gittin' too hot outside
there, was it? Why don't you tomahawk 'em and have 'em for
"Humph!" grunted the offended quahauger. "Don't git gay now, Jake
Larkin. You hurry up with that rake."
"Oh, all right, Is. Don't sculp ME; I ain't done nothin'. What's
the news over to East Harniss?"
"Oh, I don't know. Not much. Sam Bartlett, he started for Boston
"Who? Sam Bartlett? I want to know! Thought he was down for six
weeks. You sure about that, Is?"
"Course I'm sure. I was up to the depot and see him buy his ticket
and git on the cars."
"Did, hey? Humph! So Sam's gone. Gertie Higgins still over to
her Aunt Hannah's at Trumet?"
Issy looked at his questioner. "Why, yes," he said suspiciously.
"I s'pose she's there. Fact, I know she is. Pat Starkey's doin'
the telegraphin' while she's away. What made you ask that?"
The blacksmith chuckled. "Oh, nothin'," he said. "How's her dad's
dyspepsy? Had any more of them sudden attacks of his? I cal'late
they'll take the old man off some of these days, won't they? I
hear the doctor thinks there's more heart than stomach in them
But the skipper of the Lady May was not to be put off thus. "What
you drivin' at, Jake?" he demanded. "What's Sam Bartlett's goin'
away got to do with Gertie Higgins?"
In his eagerness he stepped to Mr. Larkin's side. The blacksmith
caught sight of the novel in his customer's pocket. He snatched it
"What you readin' now, Is?" he demanded. "More blood and
brimstone? 'Vivy Ann, the Shop Girl!' Gee! Wow!"
"You gimme that book, Jake Larkin! Gimme it now!"
Fending the frantic quahauger off with one mighty arm, the
blacksmith proceeded to read aloud:
"'Darlin',' cried Lord Lyndhurst, strainin' the beautiful and
blushin' maid to his manly bosom, 'you are mine at last. Mine!
No--' Jerushy! a love story! Why, Issy! I didn't know you was in
love. Who's the lucky girl? Send me an invite to your weddin',
Issy's face was a fiery red. He tore the precious volume from its
desecrator's hand, losing the pictured cover in the struggle.
"You--you pesky fool!" he shouted. "You mind your own business."
The blacksmith roared in glee. "Oh, ho!" he cried. "Issy's in
love and I never guessed it. Aw, say, Is, don't be mean! Who is
she? Have you strained her to your manly bosom yit? What's her
"Shut up!" shrieked Issy, and strode out of the shop. His
tormentor begged him not to "go off mad," and shouted sarcastic
sympathy after him. But Mr. McKay heeded not. He stalked angrily
along the sidewalk. Then espying just ahead of him the boys who
had thrown the potatoes, he paused, turned, and walking down the
carriageway at the side of the blacksmith's place of business, sat
down upon a sawhorse under one of its rear windows. He could, at
least, be alone here and think; and he wanted to think.
For Issy--although he didn't look it--was deeply interested in
another love story as well as that in his pocket. This one was
printed upon his heart's pages, and in it he was the hero, while
the heroine--the unsuspecting heroine--was Gertie Higgins, daughter
of Beriah Higgins, once a fisherman, now the crotchety and
dyspeptic proprietor of the "general store" and postmaster at East
This story began when Issy first acquired the Lady May. The
Higgins home stood on the slope close to the boat landing, and when
Issy came in from quahauging, Gertie was likely to be in the back
yard, hanging out the clothes or watering the flower garden.
Sometimes she spoke to him of her own accord, concerning the
weather or other important topics. Once she even asked him if he
were going to the Fourth of July ball at the town-hall. It took
him until the next morning--like other warriors, Issy was cursed
with shyness--to summon courage enough to ask her to go to the ball
with him. Then he found it was too late; she was going with her
cousin, Lennie Bloomer. But he felt that she had offered him the
opportunity, and was happy and hopeful accordingly.
This, however, was before she went to Boston to study telegraphy.
When she returned, with a picture hat and a Boston accent, it was
to preside at the telegraph instrument in the little room adjoining
the post office at her father's store. When Issy bowed blushingly
outside the window of the telegraph room, he received only the
airiest of frigid nods. Was there what Lord Lyndhurst would have
called "another"? It would seem not. Old Mr. Higgins, her father,
encouraged no bows nor attentions from young men, and Gertie
herself did not appear to desire them. So Issy gave up his tales
of savage butchery for those of love and blisses, adored in
silence, and hoped--always hoped.
But why had the blacksmith seemed surprised at the departure of Sam
Bartlett, the "dudey" vacationist from the city, whose father had,
years ago, been Beriah Higgins's partner in the fish business? And
why had he coupled the Bartlett name with that of Gertie, who had
been visiting her father's maiden sister at Trumet, the village
next below East Harniss, as Denboro is the next above it? Issy's
suspicions were aroused, and he wondered.
Suddenly he heard voices in the shop above him. The window was
open and he heard them plainly.
"Well! WELL!" It was the blacksmith who uttered the exclamation.
"Why, Bartlett, how be you? What you doin' over here? Thought
you'd gone back to Boston. I heard you had."
Slowly, cautiously, the astonished quahauger rose from the sawhorse
and peered over the window sill. There were two visitors in the
shop. One was Ed Burns, proprietor of the Denboro Hotel and livery
stable. The other was Sam Bartlett, the very same who had left
East Harniss that morning, bound, ostensibly, for Boston. Issy
sank back again and listened.
"Yes, yes!" he heard Sam say impatiently; "I know, but--see here,
Jake, where can I hire a horse in this God-forsaken town?"
"Well, well, Sam!" continued Larkin. "I was just figurin' that
Beriah had got the best of you after all, and you'd had to give it
up for this time. Thinks I, it's too bad! Just because your dad
and Beriah Higgins had such a deuce of a row when they bust up in
the fish trade, it's a shame that he won't hark to your keepin'
comp'ny with Gertie. And you doin' so well; makin' twenty dollars
a week up to the city--Ed told me that--and--"
"Yes, yes! But never mind that. Where can I get a horse? I've
got to be in Trumet by eight to-night sure."
"Trumet? Why, that's where Gertie is, ain't it?"
"Look a-here, Jake," broke in the livery-stable keeper. "I'll tell