Part 2 out of 8
grandson and said: "Al, why don't you look around the hardware
store here while I open the mail and the safe. If there's anything
you see you don't understand Issy'll tell you about it."
He went into the office. Albert sauntered listlessly to the window
and looked out. So far as not understanding anything in the shop
was concerned he was quite willing to remain in ignorance. It did
not interest him in the least. A moment later he felt a touch on
his elbow. He turned, to find Mr. Price standing beside him.
"I'm all ready to tell you about it now," volunteered the unsmiling
Issy. "Sweepin's all finished up."
Albert was amused. "I guess I can get along," he said.
"_I_ ain't worried none. I don't believe in worryin'; worryin'
don't do folks no good, the way I look at it. But long's Cap'n
Lote wants me to tell you about the hardware I'd ruther do it now,
than any time. Henry Cahoon's team'll be here for a load of lath
in about ten minutes or so, and then I'll have to leave you. This
here's the shelf where we keep the butts--hinges, you understand.
Brass along here, and iron here. Got quite a stock, ain't we."
He took the visitor's arm in his mighty paw and led him from
shelves to drawers and from drawers to boxes, talking all the time,
so the boy thought, "like a catalogue." Albert tried gently to
break away several times and yawned often, but yawns and hints were
quite lost on his guide, who was intent only upon the business--and
victim--in hand. At the window looking across toward the main road
Albert paused longest. There was a girl in sight--she looked, at
that distance, as if she might be a rather pretty girl--and the
young man was languidly interested. He had recently made the
discovery that pretty girls may be quite interesting; and, moreover,
one or two of them whom he had met at the school dances--when the
young ladies from the Misses Bradshaws' seminary had come over, duly
guarded and chaperoned, to one-step and fox-trot with the young
gentlemen of the school--one or two of these young ladies had
intimated a certain interest in him. So the feminine possibility
across the road attracted his notice--only slightly, of course; the
sophisticated metropolitan notice is not easily aroused--but still,
"Come on, come on," urged Issachar Price. "I ain't begun to show
ye the whole of it yet . . . Eh? Oh, Lord, there comes Cahoon's
team now! Well, I got to go. Show you the rest some other time.
So long . . . Eh? Cap'n Lote's callin' you, ain't he?"
Albert went into the office in response to his grandfather's call
to find the latter seated at an old-fashioned roll-top desk, piled
"I've got to go down to the bank, Al," he said. "Some business
about a note that Laban ought to be here to see to, but ain't.
I'll be back pretty soon. You just stay here and wait for me. You
might be lookin' over the books, if you want to. I took 'em out of
the safe and they're on Labe's desk there," pointing to the high
standing desk by the window. "They're worth lookin' at, if only to
see how neat they're kept. A set of books like that is an example
to any young man. You might be lookin' 'em over."
He hurried out. Albert smiled condescendingly and, instead of
looking over Mr. Keeler's books, walked over to the window and
looked out of that. The girl was not in sight now, but she might
be soon. At any rate watching for her was as exciting as any
amusement he could think of about that dull hole. Ah hum! he
wondered how the fellows were at school.
The girl did not reappear. Signs of animation along the main road
were limited. One or two men went by, then a group of children
obviously on their way to school. Albert yawned again, took the
silver cigarette case from his pocket and looked longingly at its
contents. He wondered what his grandfather's ideas might be on the
tobacco question. But his grandfather was not there then . . .
and he might not return for some time . . . and . . . He took a
cigarette from the case, tapped, with careful carelessness, its end
upon the case--he would not have dreamed of smoking without first
going through the tapping process--lighted the cigarette and blew a
large and satisfying cloud. Between puffs he sang:
"To you, beautiful lady,
I raise my eyes.
My heart, beautiful lady,
To your heart cries:
Come, come, beautiful lady,
As the sweet, sweet--'"
Some one behind him said: "Excuse me." The appeal to the
beautiful lady broke off in the middle, and he whirled about to
find the girl whom he had seen across the road and for whose
reappearance he had been watching at the window, standing in the
office doorway. He looked at her and she looked at him. He was
embarrassed. She did not seem to be.
"Excuse me," she said: "Is Mr. Keeler here?"
She was a pretty girl, so his hasty estimate made when he had first
sighted her was correct. Her hair was dark, so were her eyes, and
her cheeks were becomingly colored by the chill of the winter air.
She was a country girl, her hat and coat proved that; not that they
were in bad taste or unbecoming, but they were simple and their
style perhaps nearer to that which the young ladies of the Misses
Bradshaws' seminary had worn the previous winter. All this Albert
noticed in detail later on. Just then the particular point which
attracted his embarrassed attention was the look in the dark eyes.
They seemed to have almost the same disturbing quality which he had
noticed in his grandfather's gray ones. Her mouth was very proper
and grave, but her eyes looked as if she were laughing at him.
Now to be laughed at by an attractive young lady is disturbing and
unpleasant. It is particularly so when the laughter is from the
provinces and the laughee--so to speak--a dignified and sophisticated
city man. Albert summoned the said dignity and sophistication to
his rescue, knocked the ashes from his cigarette and said, haughtily:
"I beg your pardon?"
"Is Mr. Keeler here?" repeated the girl.
"No, he is out."
"Will he be back soon, do you think?"
Recollections of Mr. Price's recent remark concerning the missing
bookkeeper's "good start" came to Albert's mind and he smiled,
slightly. "I should say not," he observed, with delicate irony.
"Is Issy--I mean Mr. Price, busy?"
"He's out in the yard there somewhere, I believe. Would you like
to have me call him?"
"Why, yes--if you please--sir."
The "sir" was flattering, if it was sincere. He glanced at her.
The expression of the mouth was as grave as ever, but he was still
uncertain about those eyes. However, he was disposed to give her
the benefit of the doubt, so, stepping to the side door of the
office--that leading to the yards--he opened it and shouted:
"Price! . . . Hey, Price!"
There was no answer, although he could hear Issachar's voice and
another above the rattle of lath bundles.
"Price!" he shouted, again. "Pri-i-ce!"
The rattling ceased. Then, in the middle distance, above a pile of
"two by fours," appeared Issachar's head, the features agitated and
the forehead bedewed with the moisture of honest toil.
"Huh?" yelled Issy. "What's the matter? Be you hollerin' to me?"
"Yes. There's some one here wants to see you."
"I say there's some one here who wants to see you."
"I don't know."
"Well, find out, can't ye? I'm busy."
Was that a laugh which Albert heard behind him? He turned around,
but the young lady's face wore the same grave, even demure,
"What do you want to see him for?" he asked.
"I wanted to buy something."
"She wants to buy something," repeated Albert, shouting.
"She wants to--BUY--something." It was humiliating to have to
scream in this way.
"Buy? Buy what?"
"What do you want to buy?"
"A hook, that's all. A hook for our kitchen door. Would you mind
asking him to hurry? I haven't much time."
"She wants a hook."
"Eh? We don't keep books. What kind of a book?"
"Not book--HOOK. H-O-O-K! Oh, great Scott! Hook! HOOK! Hook for
a door! And she wants you to hurry."
"Eh? Well, I can't hurry now for nobody. I got to load these
laths and that's all there is to it. Can't you wait on him?"
Evidently the customer's sex had not yet been made clear to the
Price understanding. "You can get a hook for him, can't ye? You
know where they be, I showed ye. Ain't forgot so soon, 'tain't
The head disappeared behind the "two by fours." Its face was red,
but no redder than Mr. Speranza's at that moment.
"Fool rube!" he snorted, disgustedly.
"Excuse me, but you've dropped your cigarette," observed the young
Albert savagely slammed down the window and turned away. The
dropped cigarette stump lay where it had fallen, smudging and
His caller looked at it and then at him.
"I'd pick it up, if I were you," she said. "Cap'n Snow HATES
Albert, his dignity and indignation forgotten, returned her look
with one of anxiety.
"Does he, honest?" he asked.
"Yes. He hates them worse than anything."
The cigarette stump was hastily picked up by its owner.
"Where'll I put it?" he asked, hurriedly.
"Why don't you-- Oh, don't put it in your pocket! It will set you
on fire. Put it in the stove, quick."
Into the stove it went, all but its fragrance, which lingered.
"Do you think you COULD find me that hook?" asked the girl.
"I'll try. _I_ don't know anything about the confounded things."
"Oh!" innocently. "Don't you?"
"No, of course I don't. Why should I?"
"Aren't you working here?"
"Here? Work HERE? ME? Well, I--should--say--NOT!"
"Oh, excuse me. I thought you must be a new bookkeeper, or--or a
new partner, or something."
Albert regarded her intently and suspiciously for some seconds
before making another remark. She was as demurely grave as ever,
but his suspicions were again aroused. However, she WAS pretty,
there could be no doubt about that.
"Maybe I can find the hook for you," he said. "I can try, anyway."
"Oh, thank you ever so much," gratefully. "It's VERY kind of you
to take so much trouble."
"Oh," airily, "that's all right. Come on; perhaps we can find it
They were still looking when Mr. Price came panting in.
"Whew!" he observed, with emphasis. "If anybody tells you heavin'
bundles of laths aboard a truck-wagon ain't hard work you tell him
for me he's a liar, will ye. Whew! And I had to do the heft of
everything, 'cause Cahoon sent that one-armed nephew of his to
drive the team. A healthy lot of good a one-armed man is to help
heave lumber! I says to him, says I: 'What in time did--' Eh?
Why, hello, Helen! Good mornin'. Land sakes! you're out airly,
The young lady nodded. "Good morning, Issachar," she said. "Yes,
I am pretty early and I'm in a dreadful hurry. The wind blew our
kitchen door back against the house last night and broke the hook.
I promised Father I would run over here and get him a new one and
bring it back to him before I went to school. And it's quarter to
"Land sakes, so 'tis! Ain't--er--er--what's-his-name--Albert here,
found it for you yet? He ain't no kind of a hand to find things,
is he? We'll have to larn him better'n that. Yes indeed!"
Albert laughed, sarcastically. He was about to make a satisfyingly
crushing reproof to this piece of impertinence when Mr. Price began
to sniff the air.
"What in tunket?" he demanded. "Sn'f! Sn'f! Who's been smokin'
in here? And cigarettes, too, by crimus! Sn'f! Sn'f! Yes, sir,
cigarettes, by crimustee! Who's been smokin' cigarettes in here?
If Cap'n Lote knew anybody'd smoked a cigarette in here I don't
know's he wouldn't kill 'em. Who done it?"
Albert shivered. The girl with the dark blue eyes flashed a quick
glance at him. "I think perhaps someone went by the window when it
was open just now," she suggested. "Perhaps they were smoking and
the smoke blew in."
"Eh? Well, maybe so. Must have been a mighty rank cigarette to
smell up the whole premises like this just goin' past a window.
Whew! Gosh! no wonder they say them things are rank pison. I'd
sooner smoke skunk-cabbage myself; 'twouldn't smell no worse and
'twould be a dum sight safer. Whew! . . . Well, Helen, there's
about the kind of hook I cal'late you need. Fifteen cents 'll let
you out on that. Cheap enough for half the money, eh? Give my
respects to your pa, will ye. Tell him that sermon he preached
last Sunday was fine, but I'd like it better if he'd laid it on to
the Univer'lists a little harder. Folks that don't believe in hell
don't deserve no consideration, 'cordin' to my notion. So long,
Helen . . . Oh say," he added, as an afterthought, "I guess you
and Albert ain't been introduced, have ye? Albert, this is Helen
Kendall, she's our Orthodox minister's daughter. Helen, this young
feller is Albert--er--er-- Consarn it, I've asked Cap'n Lote that
name a dozen times if I have once! What is it, anyway?"
"Speranza," replied the owner of the name.
"That's it, Sperandy. This is Albert Sperandy, Cap'n Lote's
Albert and Miss Kendall shook hands.
"Thanks," said the former, gratefully and significantly.
The young lady smiled.
"Oh, you're welcome," she said. I knew who you were all the time--
or I guessed who you must be. Cap'n Snow told me you were coming."
She went out. Issachar, staring after her, chuckled admiringly.
"Smartest girl in THIS town," he observed, with emphasis. "Head of
her class up to high school and only sixteen and three-quarters at
Captain Zelotes came bustling in a few minutes later. He went to
his desk, paying little attention to his grandson. The latter
loitered idly up and down the office and hardware shop, watching
Issachar wait on customers or rush shouting into the yard to attend
to the wants of others there. Plainly this was Issachar's busy
"Crimus!" he exclaimed, returning from one such excursion and
mopping his forehead. "This doin' two men's work ain't no fun.
Every time Labe goes on a time seem's if trade was brisker'n it's
been for a month. Seems as if all creation and part of East
Harniss had been hangin' back waitin' till he had a shade on 'fore
they come to trade. Makes a feller feel like votin' the
Prohibition ticket. I WOULD vote it, by crimustee, if I thought
'twould do any good. 'Twouldn't though; Labe would take to
drinkin' bay rum or Florida water or somethin', same as Hoppy
Rogers done when he was alive. Jim Young says he went into Hoppy's
barber-shop once and there was Hoppy with a bottle of a new kind of
hair-tonic in his hand. 'Drummer that was here left it for a
sample,' says Hoppy. 'Wanted me to try it and, if I liked it, he
cal'lated maybe I'd buy some. I don't think I shall, though,' he
says; 'don't taste right to me.' Yes, sir, Jim Young swears that's
true. Wan't enough snake-killer in that hair tonic to suit Hoppy.
I-- Yes, Cap'n Lote, what is it? Want me, do ye?"
But the captain did not, as it happened, want Mr. Price at that
time. It was Albert whose name he had called. The boy went into
the office and his grandfather rose and shut the door.
"Sit down, Al," he said, motioning toward a chair. When his
grandson had seated himself Captain Zelotes tilted back his own
desk chair upon its springs and looked at him.
"Well, son," he said, after a moment, "what do you think of it?"
"Think of it? I don't know exactly what--"
"Of the place here. Shop, yards, the whole business. Z. Snow and
Company--what do you think of it?"
Privately Albert was inclined to classify the entire outfit as one-
horse and countrified, but he deemed it wiser not to express this
opinion. So he compromised and replied that it "seemed to be all
His grandfather nodded. "Thanks," he observed, dryly. "Glad you
find it that way. Well, then, changin' the subject for a minute or
two, what do you think about yourself?"
"About myself? About me? I don't understand?"
"No, I don't suppose you do. That's what I got you over here this
mornin' for, so as we could understand--you and me. Al, have you
given any thought to what you're goin' to do from this on? How
you're goin' to live?"
Albert looked at him uncomprehendingly.
"How I'm going to live?" he repeated. "Why--why, I thought--I
supposed I was going to live with you--with you and Grandmother."
"Um-hm, I see."
"I just kind of took that for granted, I guess. You sent for me to
come here. You took me away from school, you know."
"Yes, so I did. You know why I took you from school?"
"No, I--I guess I DON'T, exactly. I thought--I supposed it was
because you didn't want me to go there any more."
"'Twasn't that. I don't know whether I would have wanted you to go
there or not if things had been different. From what I hear it was
a pretty extravagant place, and lookin' at it from the outside
without knowin' too much about it, I should say it was liable to
put a lot of foolish and expensive notions into a boy's head. I
may be wrong, of course; I have been wrong at least a few times in
It was evident that he considered the chances of his being wrong in
this instance very remote. His tone again aroused in the youth the
feeling of obstinacy, of rebellion, of desire to take the other
"It is one of the best schools in this country," he declared. "My
father said so."
Captain Zelotes picked up a pencil on his desk and tapped his chin
lightly with the blunt end. "Um," he mused. "Well, I presume
likely he knew all about it."
"He knew as much as--most people," with a slight but significant
hesitation before the "most."
"Um-hm. Naturally, havin' been schooled there himself, I suppose."
"He wasn't schooled there. My father was a Spaniard."
"So I've heard. . . . Well, we're kind of off the subject, ain't
we? Let's leave your father's nationality out of it for a while.
And we'll leave the school, too, because no matter if it was the
best one on earth you couldn't go there. I shouldn't feel 'twas
right to spend as much money as that at any school, and you--well,
son, you ain't got it to spend. Did you have any idea what your
father left you, in the way of tangible assets?"
"No. I knew he had plenty of money always. He was one of the most
famous singers in this country."
"It WAS so," hotly. "And he was paid enough in one week to buy
this whole town--or almost. Why, my father--"
"No, I'm not going to hush. I'm proud of my father. He was a--a
great man. And--and I'm not going to stand here and have you--"
Between indignation and emotion he choked and could not finish the
sentence. The tears came to his eyes.
"I'm not going to have you or anyone else talk about him that way,"
he concluded, fiercely.
His grandfather regarded him with a steady, but not at all
"I ain't runnin' down your father, Albert," he said.
"Yes, you are. You hated him. Anybody could see you hated him."
The captain slowly rapped the desk with the pencil. He did not
answer at once.
"Well," he said, after a moment, "I don't know as I ought to deny
that. I don't know as I can deny it and be honest. Years ago he
took away from me what amounted to three-quarters of everything
that made my life worth while. Some day you'll know more about it
than you do now, and maybe you'll understand my p'int of view
better. No, I didn't like your father-- Eh? What was you
Albert, who had muttered something, was rather confused. However,
he did not attempt to equivocate. "I said I guessed that didn't
make much difference to Father," he answered, sullenly.
"I presume likely it didn't. But we won't go into that question
now. What I'm tryin' to get at in this talk we're having is you
and your future. Now you can't go back to school because you can't
afford it. All your father left when he died was--this is the
honest truth I'm tellin' you now, and if I'm puttin' it pretty
blunt it's because I always think it's best to get a bad mess out
of the way in a hurry--all your father left was debts. He didn't
leave money enough to bury him, hardly."
The boy stared at him aghast. His grandfather, leaning a little
toward him, would have put a hand on his knee, but the knee was
jerked out of the way.
"There, that's over, Al," went on Captain Zelotes. "You know the
worst now and you can say, 'What of it?' I mean just that: What
of it? Bein' left without a cent, but with your health and a fair
chance to make good--that, at seventeen or eighteen ain't a bad
lookout, by any manner of means. It's the outlook _I_ had at
fifteen--exceptin' the chance--and I ain't asked many favors of
anybody since. At your age, or a month or two older, do you know
where I was? I was first mate of a three-masted schooner. At
twenty I was skipper; and at twenty-five, by the Almighty, I owned
a share in her. Al, all you need now is a chance to go to work.
And I'm goin' to give you that chance."
Albert gasped. "Do you mean--do you mean I've got to be a--a
sailor?" he stammered.
Captain Zelotes put back his head and laughed, laughed aloud.
"A sailor!" he repeated. "Ho, ho! No wonder you looked scared.
No, I wan't cal'latin' to make a sailor out of you, son. For one
reason, sailorin' ain't what it used to be; and, for another, I
have my doubts whether a young feller of your bringin' up would
make much of a go handlin' a bunch of fo'mast hands the first day
out. No, I wasn't figgerin' to send you to sea . . . What do you
suppose I brought you down to this place for this mornin'?"
And then Albert understood. He knew why he had been conducted
through the lumber yards, about the hardware shop, why his
grandfather and Mr. Price had taken so much pains to exhibit and
explain. His heart sank.
"I brought you down here," continued the captain, "because it's a
first-rate idea to look a vessel over afore you ship aboard her.
It's kind of late to back out after you have shipped. Ever since I
made up my mind to send for you and have you live along with your
grandmother and me I've been plannin' what to do with you. I knew,
if you was a decent, ambitious young chap, you'd want to do
somethin' towards makin' a start in life. We can use--that is,
this business can use that kind of a chap right now. He could larn
to keep books and know lumber and hardware and how to sell and how
to buy. He can larn the whole thing. There's a chance here, son.
It's your chance; I'm givin' it to you. How big a chance it turns
out to be 'll depend on you, yourself."
He stopped. Albert was silent. His thoughts were confused, but
out of their dismayed confusion two or three fixed ideas reared
themselves like crags from a whirlpool. He was to live in South
Hamiss always--always; he was to keep books-- Heavens, how he hated
mathematics, detail work of any kind!--for drunken old Keeler; he
was to "heave lumber" with Issy Price. He-- Oh, it was dreadful!
It was horrible. He couldn't! He wouldn't! He--
Captain Zelotes had been watching him, his heavy brows drawing
closer together as the boy delayed answering.
"Well?" he asked, for another minute. "Did you hear what I said?"
"Understood, did you?"
Albert was clutching at straws. "I--I don't know how to keep
books," he faltered.
"I didn't suppose you did. Don't imagine they teach anything as
practical as bookkeepin' up at that school of yours. But you can
larn, can't you?"
"I--I guess so."
"I guess so, too. Good Lord, I HOPE so! Humph! You don't seem to
be jumpin' for joy over the prospect. There's a half dozen smart
young fellers here in South Harniss that would, I tell you that."
Albert devoutly wished they had jumped--and landed--before his
arrival. His grandfather's tone grew more brusque.
"Don't you want to work?" he demanded.
"Why, yes, I--I suppose I do. I--I hadn't thought much about it."
"Humph! Then I think it's time you begun. Hadn't you had ANY
notion of what you wanted to do when you got out of that school of
"I was going to college."
"Humph! . . . Yes, I presume likely. Well, after you got out of
college, what was you plannin' to do then?"
"I wasn't sure. I thought I might do something with my music. I
can play a little. I can't sing--that is, not well enough. If I
could," wistfully, "I should have liked to be in opera, as father
was, of course."
Captain Zelotes' only comment was a sniff or snort, or combination
of both. Albert went on.
"I had thought of writing--writing books and poems, you know. I've
written quite a good deal for the school magazine. And I think I
should like to be an actor, perhaps. I--"
"Good God!" His grandfather's fist came down upon the desk before
him. Slowly he shook his head.
"A--a poetry writer and an actor!" he repeated. "Whew! . . .
Well, there! Perhaps maybe we hadn't better talk any more just
now. You can have the rest of the day to run around town and sort
of get acquainted, if you want to. Then to-morrow mornin' you and
I'll come over here together and we'll begin to break you in. I
shouldn't wonder," he added, dryly, "if you found it kind of dull
at first--compared to that school and poetry makin' and such--but
it'll be respectable and it'll pay for board and clothes and
somethin' to eat once in a while, which may not seem so important
to you now as 'twill later on. And some day I cal'late--anyhow
we'll hope--you'll be mighty glad you did it."
Poor Albert looked and felt anything but glad just then. Captain
Zelotes, his hands in his pockets, stood regarding him. He, too,
did not look particularly happy.
"You'll remember," he observed, "or perhaps you don't know, that
when your father asked us to look out for you--"
Albert interrupted. "Did--did father ask you to take care of me?"
he cried, in surprise.
"Um-hm. He asked somebody who was with him to ask us to do just
The boy drew a long breath. "Well, then," he said, hopelessly,
"Thanks. Now you run around town and see the sights. Dinner's at
half past twelve prompt, so be on hand for that."
After his grandson had gone, the captain, hands still in his
pockets, stood for some time looking out of the window. At length
he spoke aloud.
"A play actor or a poetry writer!" he exclaimed. "Tut, tut, tut!
No use talkin', blood will tell!"
Issachar, who was putting coal on the office fire, turned his head.
"Eh?" he queried.
"Nothin'," said Captain Lote.
He would have been surprised if he could have seen his grandson
just at that moment. Albert, on the beach whither he had strayed
in his desire to be alone, safely hidden from observation behind a
sand dune, was lying with his head upon his arms and sobbing
A disinterested person might have decided that the interview which
had just taken place and which Captain Zelotes hopefully told his
wife that morning would probably result in "a clear, comf'table
understandin' between the boy and me"--such a disinterested person
might have decided that it had resulted in exactly the opposite.
In calculating the results to be obtained from that interview the
captain had not taken into consideration two elements, one his own
and the other his grandson's. These elements were prejudice and
The next morning, with much the same feeling that a convict must
experience when he enters upon a life imprisonment, Albert entered
the employ of "Z. Snow and Co., Lumber and Builders' Hardware."
The day, he would have sworn it, was at least a year long. The
interval between breakfast and dinner was quite six months, yet the
dinner hour itself was the shortest sixty minutes he had ever
known. Mr. Keeler had not yet returned to his labors, so there was
no instruction in bookkeeping; but his grandfather gave him letters
to file and long dreary columns of invoice figures to add. Twice
Captain Zelotes went out and then, just as Albert settled back for
a rest and breathing spell, Issachar Price appeared, warned
apparently by some sort of devilish intuition, and invented
"checking up stock" and similar menial and tiresome tasks to keep
him uncomfortable till the captain returned. The customers who
came in asked questions concerning him and he was introduced to at
least a dozen citizens of South Harniss, who observed "Sho!" and
"I want to know!" when told his identity and, in some instances,
addressed him as "Bub," which was of itself a crime deserving
That night, as he lay in bed in the back bedroom, he fell asleep
facing the dreary prospect of another monotonous imprisonment the
following day, and the next day, and the day after that, and after
that--and after that--and so on--and on--and on--forever and ever,
as long as life should last. This, then, was to be the end of all
his dreams, this drudgery in a country town among these commonplace
country people. This was the end of his dreams of some day writing
deathless odes and sonnets or thrilling romances; of treading the
boards as the hero of romantic drama while star-eyed daughters of
multi-millionaires gazed from the boxes in spellbound rapture.
This . . . The thought of the star-eyed ones reminded him of the
girl who had come into the office the afternoon of his first visit
to that torture chamber. He had thought of her many times since
their meeting and always with humiliation and resentment. It was
his own foolish tongue which had brought the humiliation upon him.
When she had suggested that he might be employed by Z. Snow and Co.
he had replied: "Me? Work HERE! Well, I should say NOT!" And
all the time she, knowing who he was, must have known he was doomed
to work there. He resented that superior knowledge of hers. He
had made a fool of himself but she was to blame for it. Well, by
George, he would NOT work there! He would run away, he would show
her, and his grandfather and all the rest what was what. Night
after night he fell asleep vowing to run away, to do all sorts of
desperate deeds, and morning after morning he went back to that
On the fourth morning the prodigal came home, the stray lamb
returned to the fold--Mr. Keeler returned to his desk and his
duties. There was a premonition of his return at the Snow breakfast
table. For three days Mrs. Ellis had swathed her head in white and
her soul in black. For three days her favorite accompaniment to
conversation had been a groan or a sigh. Now, on this fourth
morning, she appeared without the bandage on her brow or the crape
upon her spirit. She was not hilarious but she did not groan once,
and twice during the meal she actually smiled. Captain Lote
commented upon the change, she being absent from table momentarily.
"Whew!" he observed, in an undertone, addressing his wife. "If it
ain't a comfort to see the wrinkles on Rachel's face curvin' up
instead of down. I'm scared to death that she'll go out some time
in a cold spell when she's havin' one of them sympathetics of hers,
and her face'll freeze that way. Well, Albert," turning to his
grandson, "the colors'll be h'isted to the truck now instead of
half-mast and life'll be somethin' besides one everlastin' 'last
look at the remains.' Now we can take off the mournin' till the
"Yes," said Olive, "and Laban'll be back, too. I'm sure you must
have missed him awfully, Zelotes."
"Missed him! I should say so. For one thing, I miss havin' him
between me and Issy. When Labe's there Is talks to him and Labe
keeps on thinkin' of somethin' else and so it don't worry him any.
I can't do that, and my eardrums get to wearin' thin and that makes
me nervous. Maybe you've noticed that Issy's flow of conversation
ain't what you'd call a trickle," he added, turning to Albert.
Albert had noticed it. "But," he asked, "what makes Rachel--Mrs.
Ellis--so cheerful this morning? Does she know that Mr. Keeler
will be back at work? How does she know? She hasn't seen him, has
"No," replied the captain. "She ain't seen him. Nobody sees him,
far's that goes. He generally clears out somewheres and locks
himself up in a room, I judge, till his vacation's over. I suppose
that's one way to have fun, but it ain't what I'd call hilarious."
"Don't, Zelotes," said Mrs. Snow. "I do wish you wouldn't call it
"I don't, but Laban seems to. If he don't do it for fun I don't
know what he does it for. Maybe it's from a sense of duty. It
ain't to oblige me, I know that."
Albert repeated his question. "But how does she know he will be
back to-day?" he asked.
His grandmother shook her head. "That's the mysterious part about
it," she whispered. "It makes a person think there may be
somethin' in the sympathetic notion she talks so much about. She
don't see him at all and yet we can always tell when he's comin'
back to work by her spirits. If he ain't back to-day he will be
to-morrow, you'll see. She never misses by more than a day. _I_
think it's real sort of mysterious, but Zelotes laughs at me."
Captain Lote's lip twitched. "Yes, Mother," he said, "it's about
as mysterious as the clock's strikin' twelve when it's noon. _I_
know it's morally sartin that Labe'll be back aboard to-day or to-
morrow because his sprees don't ever last more than five days. I
can't swear to how she knows, but that's how _I_ know--and I'm
darned sure there's no 'sympathy' about my part." Then, as if
realizing that he had talked more than usual, he called, brusquely:
"Come on, Al, come on. Time we were on the job, boy."
Sure enough, as they passed the window of the office, there, seated
on the stool behind the tall desk, Albert saw the diminutive figure
of the man who had been his driver on the night of his arrival.
He was curious to see how the delinquent would apologize for or
explain his absence. But Mr. Keeler did neither, nor did Captain
Snow ask a question. Instead the pair greeted each other as if
they had parted in that office at the close of business on the
"Mornin', Cap'n Lote," said Laban, quietly.
"Mornin', Labe," replied the captain, just as calmly.
He went on and opened his own desk, leaving his grandson standing
by the door, not knowing whether to speak or offer to shake hands.
The situation was a little difficult, particularly as Mr. Keeler
gave no sign of recognition, but, after a glance at his employer's
companion, went on making entries in the ledger.
Captain Zelotes looked up a moment later. His gray eyes inspected
the pair and the expression on Albert's face caused them to twinkle
slightly. "Labe," he said, "this is my grandson, Albert, the one I
told you was comin' to live with us."
Laban turned on the stool, regarded Albert over his spectacles, and
extended a hand.
"Pleased to meet you," he said. "Yes, yes . . . Yes, yes, yes. . .
Pleased to meet you. Cap'n Lote said you was comin'--er--er--
Alfred. Howdy do."
They shook hands. Mr. Keeler's hand trembled a little, but that
was the only symptom of his recent "vacation" which the youth could
notice. Certain vivid remembrances of his father's bad humor on
mornings following convivial evenings recurred to him. Was it
possible that this odd, precise, dried-up little man had been on a
spree for four days? It did not seem possible. He looked more as
if he might be expected to rap on the desk and ask the school to
come to order.
"Albert's goin' to take hold here with us in the office," went on
Captain Lote. "You'll remember I spoke to you about that when we
talked about his comin'. Al, Labe--Mr. Keeler here--will start you
in larnin' to bookkeep. He'll be your first mate from now on.
Don't forget you're a fo'mast hand yet awhile and the way for a
fo'mast hand to get ahead is to obey orders. And don't," he added,
with a quiet chuckle, "do any play-actin' or poetry-makin' when
it's your watch on deck. Laban nor I ain't very strong for play-
actin', are we, Labe?"
Laban, to whom the reference was anything but clear, replied rather
vaguely that he didn't know as he was, very. Albert's temper
flared up again. His grandfather was sneering at him once more; he
was always sneering at him. All right, let him sneer--now. Some
day he would be shown. He scowled and turned away. And Captain
Zelotes, noticing the scowl, was reminded of a scowl he had seen
upon the face of a Spanish opera singer some twenty years before.
He did not like to be reminded of that man.
He went out soon afterward and then Laban, turning to Albert, asked
a few questions.
"How do you think you're goin' to like South Harniss, Ansel?" he
Albert was tempted to reply that he, Keeler, had asked him that
very question before, but he thought it best not to do so.
"I don't know yet," he answered, carelessly. "Well enough, I
"You'll like it fust-rate bimeby. Everybody does when they get
used to it. Takes some time to get used to a place, don't you know
it does, Ansel?"
"My name is Albert."
"Eh? Yes, yes, so 'tis. Yes, yes, yes. I don't know why I called
you Ansel, 'less 'twas on account of my knowin' an Ansel Olsen
once . . . Hum . . . Yes, yes. Well, you'll like South Harniss
when you get used to it."
The boy did not answer. He was of the opinion that he should die
long before the getting used process was completed. Mr. Keeler
"Come on yesterday's train, did you?" he asked.
Albert looked at him. Was the fellow joking? He did not look as
if he was.
"Why no," he replied. "I came last Monday night. Don't you
"Eh? Oh, yes . . . Yes, yes, yes . . . Last Monday night you
come, eh? On the night train, eh?" He hesitated a moment and then
asked. "Cap'n Lote fetch you down from the depot?"
Albert stared at him open-mouthed.
"Why, no!" he retorted. "You drove me down yourself."
For the first time a slight shade of embarrassment crossed the
bookkeeper's features. He drew a long breath.
"Yes," he mused. "Yes, yes, yes. I kind of thought I--yes, yes,--
I--I thought likely I did . . . Yes, yes, course I did, course I
did. Well, now maybe we'd better be startin' you in to work--er--
Augustus. Know anything about double-entry, do you?"
Albert did not, nor had he the slightest desire to learn. But
before the first hour was over he foresaw that he was destined to
learn, if he remained in that office, whether he wanted to or not.
Laban Keeler might be, and evidently was, peculiar in his ways, but
as a bookkeeper he was thoroughness personified. And as a teacher
of his profession he was just as thorough. All that forenoon
Albert practiced the first principles of "double entry" and, after
the blessed hour for dinner, came back to practice the remainder of
the working day.
And so for many days. Little by little he learned to invoice and
journalize and "post in the ledger" and all the rest of the detail
of bookkeeping. Not that his instructor permitted him to do a
great deal of actual work upon the books of Z. Snow and Co. Those
books were too spotless and precious for that. Looking over them
Albert was surprised and obliged to admit a grudging admiration at
the manner in which, for the most part, they had been kept. Page
after page of the neatest of minute figures, not a blot, not a
blur, not an erasure. So for months; then, in the minor books,
like the day-book or journal, would suddenly break out an eruption
of smudges and scrawls in the rugged handwriting of Captain
Zelotes. When he first happened upon one of these Albert
unthinkingly spoke to Mr. Keeler about it. He asked the latter
what it meant.
Laban slowly stroked his nose with his thumb and finger, a habit he
"I cal'late I was away for a spell then," he said, gravely. "Yes,
yes . . . Yes, yes, yes. I was away for a little spell."
He went soberly back to his desk. His new assistant, catching a
glimpse of his face, felt a pang of real pity for the little man.
Of course the reason for the hiatus in the books was plain enough.
He knew about those "little spells." Oddly enough Laban seemed to
feel sorry for them. He remembered how funny the bookkeeper had
appeared at their first meeting, when one "spell" was just
developing, and the contrast between the singing, chirruping clown
and the precise, grave little person at the desk struck even his
youthful mind as peculiar. He had read "Doctor Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde," and now here was an example of something similar. He was
beginning to like Laban Keeler, although he was perfectly sure that
he should never like bookkeeping.
He did not slave at the books all the time, of course. For
stretches, sometimes lasting whole days, his slavery was of another
sort. Then he was working in the lumber yard with Issachar, or
waiting on customers in the hardware shop. The cold of winter set
in in earnest now and handling "two by fours" and other timber out
where the raw winds swept piercingly through one's overcoat and
garments and flesh to the very bone was a trying experience. His
hands were chapped and cracked, even though his grandmother had
knit him a pair of enormous red mittens. He appreciated the warmth
of the mittens, but he hated the color. Why in the name of all
that was inartistic did she choose red; not a deep, rich crimson,
but a screeching vermilion, like a fireman's shirt?
Issachar, when he had the opportunity, was a hard boss. It suited
Mr. Price to display his superior knowledge and to find fault with
his helper's lack of skill. Albert's hot temper was at the boiling
point many times, but he fought it down. Occasionally he retorted
in kind, but his usual and most effective weapon was a more or less
delicate sarcasm. Issachar did not understand sarcasm and under
rapid fire he was inclined to lose his head.
"Consarn it!" he snapped, irritably, on one occasion. "Consarn it,
Al, why don't you h'ist up on t'other end of that j'ist? What do
you cal'late you're out here along of me for; to look harnsome?"
Albert shook his head. "No, Is," he answered, gravely. "No, that
wouldn't be any use. With you around nobody else has a look-in at
the 'handsome' game. Issy, what do you do to your face?"
"Do to it? What do you mean by do to it?"
"What do you do to it to make it look the way it does? Don't tell
me it grew that way naturally."
"Grew! Course it grew! What kind of talk's that?"
"Issy, with a face like yours how do you keep the birds away?"
"Eh? Keep the birds away! Now look here, just--"
"Excuse me. Did I say 'birds,' Issy? I didn't mean birds like--
like crows. Of course a face like yours would keep the crows away
all right enough. I meant girls. How do you keep the girls away?
I should think they would be making love all the time."
"Aw, you shut up! Just 'cause you're Cap'n Lote's grandson I
presume likely you think you can talk any kind of talk, don't ye?"
"Not any kind, Is. I can't talk like you. Will you teach me?"
"Shut up! Now, by Crimus, you--you furriner--you Speranzy--"
Mr. Keeler appeared at the office window. His shrill voice rose
pipingly in the wintry air as he demanded to know what was the
trouble out there.
Mr. Price, still foaming, strode toward the window; Albert
laughingly followed him.
"What's the matter?" repeated Laban. "There's enough noise for a
sewin' circle. Be still, Is, can't you, for a minute. Al, what's
"Issy's been talking about his face," explained Albert, soberly.
"I ain't neither. I was h'istin' up my end of a j'ist, same as I'm
paid to do, and, 'stead of helpin' he stands there and heaves out
"Well, about what?"
"Aw, about--about me and--and girls--and all sorts of dum
foolishness. I tell ye, I've got somethin' else to do beside
listen to that kind of cheap talk."
"Um. Yes, yes. I see. Well, Al, what have you got to say?"
"Nothing. I'm sure I don't know what it is all about. I was
working as hard as I could and all at once he began pitching into
"Pitchin' into you? How?"
"Oh, I don't know. Something about my looks he didn't like, I
guess. Wanted to know if I thought I was as handsome as he was, or
something like that."
"Eh? I never neither! All I said was--"
Mr. Keeler raised his hand. "Seems to be a case for an umpire," he
observed. "Um. Seem's if 'twas, seems so, seems so. Well,
Captain Lote's just comin' across the road and, if you say the
word, I'll call him in to referee. What do you say?"
They said nothing relevant to the subject in hand. Issachar made
the only remark. "Crimus-TEE!" he ejaculated. "Come on, Al, come
The pair hurried away to resume lumber piling. Laban smiled
slightly and closed the window. It may be gathered from this
incident that when the captain was in charge of the deck there was
little idle persiflage among the "fo'mast hands." They, like
others in South Harniss, did not presume to trifle with Captain
So the business education of Alberto Miguel Carlos Speranza
progressed. At the end of the first six weeks in South Harniss he
had learned a little about bookkeeping, a little about selling
hardware, a little about measuring and marking lumber. And it must
be admitted that that little had been acquired, not because of
vigorous application on the part of the pupil, but because, being
naturally quick and intelligent, he could not help learning
something. He liked the work just as little as he had in the
beginning of his apprenticeship. And, although he was forgetting
his thoughts of running away, of attempting fortune on his own
hook, he was just as rebellious as ever against a future to be
spent in that office and at that work.
Outside the office and the hateful bookkeeping he was beginning to
find several real interests. At the old house which had for
generations been called "the Snow place," he was beginning to feel
almost at home. He and his grandmother were becoming close
friends. She was not looking for trouble, she never sat for long
intervals gazing at him as if she were guessing, guessing, guessing
concerning him. Captain Zelotes did that, but Olive did not. She
had taken the boy, her "Janie's boy," to her heart from the moment
she saw him and she mothered him and loved him in a way which--so
long as it was not done in public--comforted his lonely soul. They
had not yet reached the stage where he confided in her to any great
extent, but that was certain to come later. It was his grandmother's
love and the affection he was already beginning to feel for her
which, during these first lonesome, miserable weeks, kept him from,
perhaps, turning the running away fantasy into a reality.
Another inmate of the Snow household with whom Albert was becoming
better acquainted with was Mrs. Rachel Ellis. Their real
acquaintanceship began one Sunday forenoon when Captain Zelotes and
Olive had gone to church. Ordinarily he would have accompanied
them, to sit in the straight-backed old pew on a cushion which felt
lumpy and smelt ancient and musty, and pretend to listen while old
Mr. Kendall preached a sermon which was ancient and musty likewise.
But this Sunday morning he awoke with a headache and his grandmother
had pleaded for him, declaring that he ought to "lay to bed" a while
and get over it. He got over it with surprising quickness after the
church bell ceased ringing, and came downstairs to read Ivanhoe in
the sitting room. He had read it several times before, but he
wanted to read something and the choice of volumes in the Snow
bookcase was limited. He was stretched out on the sofa with the
book in his hand when the housekeeper entered, armed with a
dust-cloth. She went to church only "every other" Sunday. This
was one of the others without an every, and she was at home.
"What are you readin', Albert?" she asked, after a few' minutes
vigorous wielding of the dust-cloth. "It must be awful interestin',
you stick at it so close."
The Black Knight was just then hammering with his battle-axe at the
gate of Front de Buef's castle, not minding the stones and beams
cast down upon him from above "no more than if they were thistle-
down or feathers." Albert absently admitted that the story was
interesting. The housekeeper repeated her request to be told its
"Ivanhoe," replied the boy; adding, as the name did not seem to
convey any definite idea to his interrogator's mind: "It's by
Walter Scott, you know."
Mrs. Ellis made no remark immediately. When she did it was to the
effect that she used to know a colored man named Scott who worked
at the hotel once. "He swept out and carried trunks and such
things," she explained. "He seemed to be a real nice sort of
colored man, far as ever I heard."
Albert was more interested in the Black Knight of Ivanhoe than the
black man of the hotel, so he went on reading. Rachel sat down in
a chair by the window and looked out, twisting and untwisting the
dust-cloth in her lap.
"I presume likely lots and lots of folks have read that book, ain't
they?" she asked, after another interval.
"What? Oh, yes, almost everybody. It's a classic, I suppose."
"What you said the book was. A class-somethin' or other?"
"Oh, a classic. Why, it's--it's something everybody knows about,
or--or ought to know about. One of the big things, you know.
Like--like Shakespeare or--or Robinson Crusoe or Paradise Lost or--
lots of them. It's a book everybody reads and always will."
"I see. Humph! Well, I never read it. . . . I presume likely you
think that's pretty funny, don't you?"
Albert tore himself away from the fight at the gate.
"Why, I don't know," he replied.
"Yes, you do. You think it's awful funny. Well, you wouldn't if
you knew more about how busy I've been all my life. I ain't had
time to read the way I'd ought to. I read a book once though that
I'll never forget. Did you ever read a book called Foul Play?"
"No. . . . Why, hold on, though; I think I have. By Charles
Reade, wasn't it?"
"Yes, that's who wrote it, a man named Charles Reade. Laban told
me that part of it; he reads a lot, Laban does. I never noticed
who wrote it, myself. I was too interested in it to notice little
extry things like that. But ain't that a WONDERFUL book? Ain't
that the best book you ever read in all your LIFE?"
She dropped the dust-cloth and was too excited and enthusiastic to
pick it up. Albert did his best to recall something definite
concerning Foul Play. The book had been in the school library and
he, who read almost everything, had read it along with the others.
"Let me see," he said musingly. "About a shipwreck--something
about a shipwreck in it, wasn't there?"
"I should say there was! My stars above! Not the common kind of
shipwreck, neither, the kind they have down to Setuckit P'int on
the shoals. No sir-ee! This one was sunk on purpose. That Joe
Wylie bored holes right down through her with a gimlet, the wicked
thing! And that set 'em afloat right out on the sea in a boat, and
there wan't anything to eat till Robert Penfold--oh, HE was the
smart one; he'd find anything, that man!--he found the barnacles on
the bottom of the boat, just the same as he found out how to
diffuse intelligence tied onto a duck's leg over land knows how
many legs--leagues, I mean--of ocean. But that come later. Don't
you remember THAT?"
Albert laughed. The story was beginning to come back to him.
"Oh, sure!" he exclaimed. "I remember now. He--the Penfold
fellow--and the girl landed on this island and had all sorts of
adventures, and fell in love and all that sort of stuff, and then
her dad came and took her back to England and she--she did
something or other there to--to get the Penfold guy out of
"Did somethin'! I should say she did! Why, she found out all
about who forged the letter--the note, I mean--that's what she
done. 'Twas Arthur Wardlaw, that's who 'twas. And he was tryin'
to get Helen all the time for himself, the skinner! Don't talk to
me about that Arthur Wardlaw! I never could bear HIM."
She spoke as if she had known the detested Wardlaw intimately from
childhood. Young Speranza was hugely amused. Ivanhoe was quite
"Foul Play was great stuff," he observed. "When did you read it?"
"Eh? When? Oh, ever and ever so long ago. When I was about
twenty, I guess, and laid up with the measles. That's the only
time I ever was real what you might call down sick in my life, and
I commenced with measles. That's the way a good many folks
commence, I know, but they don't generally wait till they're out of
their 'teens afore they start. I was workin' for Mrs. Philander
Bassett at the time, and she says to me: 'Rachel,' she says,
'you're on the mendin' hand now, wouldn't you like a book to read?'
I says, 'Why, maybe I would.' And she fetched up three of 'em. I
can see 'em now, all three, plain as day. One was Barriers Burned
Away. She said that was somethin' about a big fire. Well, I'm
awful nervous about fires, have been from a child, so I didn't read
that. And another had the queerest kind of a name, if you'd call
it a name at all; 'twas She."
"Yes," he said. "I've read that."
"Have you? Well, I begun to, but my stars, THAT wasn't any book to
give to a person with nerve symptoms. I got as far as where those
Indians or whatever they was started to put red-hot kettles on
folks's heads, and that was enough for ME. 'Give me somethin'
civilized,' says I, 'or not at all.' So I commenced Foul Play, and
I tell you I kept right on to the end.
"I don't suppose," she went on, "that there ever was a much better
book than that wrote, was there?"
Albert temporized. "It is a good one," he admitted.
"Don't seem to me there could be much better. Laban says it's
good, though he won't go so far as to say it's the very best. He's
read lots and lots of books, Laban has. Reads an awful lot in his
spare time. He's what you'd call an educated person, which is what
I ain't. And I guess you'll say that last is plain enough without
bein' told," she added.
Her companion, not exactly knowing how to answer, was silent for a
moment. Rachel, who had picked up and was again twisting the dust-
cloth, returned to the subject she so delighted in.
"But that Foul Play book," she continued, "I've read till I've
pretty nigh wore the covers off. When Mrs. Bassett saw how much I
liked it she gave it to me for a present. I read a little bit in
it every little while. I kind of fit the folks in that book to
folks in real life, sort of compare 'em, you know. Do you ever do
Albert, repressing a chuckle, said, "Sure!" again. She nodded.
"Now there's General Rolleson in that book," she said. "Do you
know who he makes me think of? Cap'n Lote, your grandpa, that's
General Rolleson, as Albert remembered him, was an extremely
dignified, cultured and precise old gentleman. Just what
resemblance there might be between him and Captain Zelotes Snow,
ex-skipper of the Olive S., he could not imagine. He could not
repress a grin, and the housekeeper noticed it.
"Seems funny to you, I presume likely," she said. "Well, now you
think about it. This General Rolleson man was kind of proud and
sot in his ways just as your grandpa is, Albert. He had a daughter
he thought all the world of; so did Cap'n Lote. Along come a
person that wanted to marry the daughter. In the book 'twas Robert
Penfold, who had been a convict. In your grandpa's case, 'twas
your pa, who had been a play-actor. So you see--"
Albert sat up on the sofa. "Hold on!" he interrupted indignantly.
"Do you mean to compare my father with a--with a CONVICT? I want
you to understand--"
Mrs. Ellis held up the dust-cloth. "Now, now, now," she protested.
"Don't go puttin' words in my mouth that I didn't say. I don't
doubt your pa was a nice man, in his way, though I never met him.
But 'twan't Cap'n Lote's way any more than Robert Penfold's was
"My father was famous," declared the youth hotly. "He was one of
the most famous singers in this country. Everybody knows that--
that is, everybody but Grandfather and the gang down here," he
added, in disgust.
"I don't say you're wrong. Laban tells me that some of those
singin' folks get awful high wages, more than the cap'n of a
steamboat, he says, though that seems like stretchin' it to me.
But, as I say, Cap'n Lote was proud, and nobody but the best would
satisfy him for Janie, your mother. Well, in that way, you see, he
reminds me of General Rolleson in the book."
"Look here, Mrs. Ellis. Tell me about this business of Dad's
marrying my mother. I never knew much of anything about it."
"You didn't? Did your pa never tell you?"
"Humph! That's funny. Still, I don't know's as 'twas, after all,
considerin' you was only a boy. Probably he'd have told you some
day. Well, I don't suppose there's any secret about it. 'Twas
town talk down here when it happened."
She told him the story of the runaway marriage. Albert listened
with interest and the almost incredulous amazement with which the
young always receive tales of their parents' love affairs. Love,
for people of his age or a trifle older, was a natural and
understandable thing, but for his father, as he remembered him, to
have behaved in this way was incomprehensible.
"So," said Rachel, in conclusion, "that's how it happened. That's
why Cap'n Lote couldn't ever forgive your father."
He tossed his head. "Well, he ought to have forgiven him," he
declared. "He was dead lucky to get such a man for a son-in-law,
if you ask me."
"He didn't think so. And he wouldn't ever mention your pa's name."
"Oh, I don't doubt that. Anybody can see how he hated Father. And
he hates me the same way," he added moodily.
Mrs. Ellis was much disturbed. "Oh, no, he don't," she cried.
"You mustn't think that, Albert. He don't hate you, I'm sure of
it. He's just kind of doubtful about you, that's all. He
remembers how your pa acted--or how he thinks he acted--and so he
can't help bein' the least mite afraid the same thing may crop out
in you. If you just stick to your job over there at the lumber
yards and keep on tryin' to please him, he'll get all over that
suspicion, see if he don't. Cap'n Lote Snow is stubborn sometimes
and hard to turn, but he's square as a brick. There's some that
don't like him, and a good many that don't agree with him--but
everybody respects him."
Albert did not answer. The housekeeper rose from her chair.
"There!" she exclaimed. "I don't know when I've set down for so
long. Goodness knows I've got work enough to do without settin'
around talkin'. I can't think what possessed me to do it this
time, unless 'twas seein' you readin' that book." She paused a
moment and then said: "Albert, I--I don't want you and your
grandpa to have any quarrels. You see--well, you see, I used to
know your mother real well, and--and I thought an awful sight of
her. I wish--I do wish when you and the cap'n have any trouble or
anything, or when you think you're liable to have any, you'd come
and talk it over with me. I'm like the feller that Laban tells
about in his dog-fight yarn. This feller was watchin' the fight
and when they asked him to stop it afore one or t'other of the dogs
was killed, he just shook his head. 'No-o,' he says, kind of slow
and moderate, 'I guess I shan't interfere. One of 'em's been
stealin' my chickens and the other one bit me. I'm a friend to
both parties,' he says. Course I don't mean it exactly that way,"
she added, with a smile, "but you know what I do mean, I guess.
WILL you talk things over with me sometimes, Albert?"
His answer was not very enthusiastic, but he said he guessed so,
and Rachel seemed satisfied with that. She went on with her
dusting, and he with his reading, but the conversation was the
first of many between the pair. The housekeeper appeared to
consider his having read her beloved Foul Play a sort of password
admitting him to her lodge and that thereafter they were, in
consequence, to be confidants and comrades. She never hesitated to
ask him the most personal questions concerning his work, his plans,
the friends or acquaintances he was making in the village. Some of
those questions he answered honestly and fully, some he dodged,
some he did not answer at all. Mrs. Ellis never resented his not
answering. "I presume likely that ain't any of my business, is
it?" she would say, and ask about something else.
On the other hand, she was perfectly outspoken concerning her own
affairs. He was nearly overcome with hilarious joy when, one day,
she admitted that, in her mind, Robert Penfold, the hero of Foul
Play, lived again in the person of Laban Keeler.
"Why, Mrs. Ellis," he cried, as soon as he could trust himself to
speak at all, "I don't see THAT. Penfold was a six-footer, wasn't
he? And--and athletic, you know, and--and a minister, and young--
younger, I mean--and--"
Rachel interrupted. "Yes, yes, I know," she said. "And Laban is
little, and not very young, and, whatever else he is, he ain't a
minister. I know all that. I know the outside of him don't look
like Robert Penfold at all. But," somewhat apologetically, "you
see I've been acquainted with him so many years I've got into the
habit of seein' his INSIDE. Now that sounds kind of ridiculous, I
know," she added. "Sounds as if I--I--well, as if I was in the
habit of takin' him apart, like a watch or somethin'. What I mean
is that I know him all through. I've known him for a long, long
while. He ain't much to look at, bein' so little and sort of dried
up, but he's got a big, fine heart and big brains. He can do 'most
anything he sets his hand to. When I used to know him, when I was
a girl, folks was always prophesyin' that Laban Keeler would turn
out to be a whole lot more'n the average. He would, too, only for
one thing, and you know what that is. It's what has kept me from
marryin' him all this time. I swore I'd never marry a man that
drinks, and I never will. Why, if it wasn't for liquor Labe would
have been runnin' his own business and gettin' rich long ago. He
all but runs Cap'n Lote's place as 'tis. The cap'n and a good many
other folks don't realize that, but it's so."
It was plain that she worshiped the little bookkeeper and, except
during the periods of "vacation" and "sympathetics," was
tremendously proud of him. Albert soon discovered that Mr.
Keeler's feeling for her was equally strong. In his case, though,
there was also a strong strain of gratitude.
"She's a fine woman, Al," he confided to his assistant on one
occasion. "A fine woman. . . . Yes, yes, yes. They don't
make 'em any finer. Ah hum! And not so long ago I read about
a passel of darn fools arguin' that the angels in heaven was all
he-ones. . . . Umph! . . . Sho, sho! If men was as good as women,
Ansel--Alfred--Albert, I mean--we could start an opposition heaven
down here most any time. 'Most any time--yes, yes."
It was considerable for him to say. Except when on a vacation,
Laban was not loquacious.
Each Sunday afternoon, when the weather was pleasant, he came,
dressed in his best black cutaway, shiny at elbows and the under
part of the sleeves, striped trousers and a pearl gray soft hat
with a black band, a hat which looked as much out of place above
his round, withered little face as a red roof might have looked on
a family vault, and he and the housekeeper went for a walk.
Rachel, in her Sunday black, bulked large beside him. As Captain
Zelotes said, the pair looked like "a tug takin' a liner out to
Outside of the gates of the Snow place Albert was making many
acquaintances and a few friends. After church on Sundays his
grandmother had a distressful habit of suddenly seizing his arm or
his coat-tail as he was hurrying toward the vestibule and the
sunshine of outdoors, and saying: "Oh, Albert, just a minute!
Here's somebody you haven't met yet, I guess. Elsie"--or Nellie or
Mabel or Henry or Charlie or George, whichever it happened to be--
"this is my grandson, Albert Speranza." And the young person to
whom he was thus introduced would, if a male, extend a hesitating
hand, give his own an embarrassed shake, smile uncertainly and say,
"Yes--er--yes. Pleased to meet you." Or, if of the other sex,
would blush a little and venture the observation that it was a
lovely morning, and wasn't the sermon splendid.
These Sabbath introductions led to week-day, or rather week-
evening, meetings. The principal excitement in South Harniss was
"going for the mail." At noon and after supper fully one-half of
the village population journeyed to the post office. Albert's
labors for Z. Snow and Co. prevented his attending the noon
gatherings--his grandfather usually got the morning mail--but he
early formed the habit of sauntering "down street" in the evening
if the weather was not too cold or disagreeable. There he was
certain to find groups of South Harniss youth of both sexes,
talking, giggling, skylarking and flirting. Sometimes he joined
one or the other of these groups; quite as often he did not, but
kept aloof and by himself, for it may as well be acknowledged now,
if it is not already plain, that the son of Miguel Carlos Speranza
had inherited a share of his father's temperament and self-esteem.
The whim of the moment might lead him to favor these young people
with his society, but he was far from considering himself under
obligation to do so. He had not the least idea that he was in any
way a snob, he would have hotly resented being called one, but he
accepted his estimate of his own worth as something absolute and
certain, to be taken for granted.
Now this attitude of mind had its dangers. Coupled with its
possessor's extraordinary good looks, it was fascinating to a large
percentage of the village girls. The Speranza eyes and the
Speranza curls and nose and chin were, when joined with the easy
condescension of the Speranza manner, a combination fatal to the
susceptible. The South Harniss "flappers," most of them, enthused
over the new bookkeeper in the lumber office. They ogled and
giggled and gushed in his presence, and he was tolerant or bored,
just as he happened to be feeling at the moment. But he never
displayed a marked interest in any one of them, for the very good
reason that he had no such interest. To him they were merely
girls, nice enough in their way, perhaps, but that way not his.
Most of the town young fellows of his age he found had a "girl" and
almost every girl had a "fellow"; there was calf love in abundance,
but he was a different brand of veal.
However, a great man must amuse himself, and so he accepted
invitations to church socials and suppers and to an occasional
dance or party. His style of dancing was not that of South Harniss
in the winter. It was common enough at the hotel or the "tea
house" in July and August when the summer people were there, but
not at the town hall at the Red Men's Annual Ball in February. A
fellow who could foxtrot as he could swept all before him. Sam
Thatcher, of last year's class in the high school, but now clerking
in the drug store, who had hitherto reigned as the best "two-
stepper" in town, suddenly became conscious of his feet. Then,
too, the contents of the three trunks which had been sent on from
school were now in evidence. No Boston or Brockton "Advanced
Styles" held a candle to those suits which the tailor of the late
Miguel Carlos had turned out for his patron's only son. No other
eighteen-year-older among the town's year-around residents
possessed a suit of evening clothes. Albert wore his "Tux" at the
Red Men's Ball and hearts palpitated beneath new muslin gowns and
bitter envy stirred beneath the Brockton "Advanced Styles."
In consequence, by spring the social status of Albert Speranza
among those of his own age in the village had become something
like this: He was in high favor with most of the girls and in
corresponding disfavor with most of the young fellows. The girls,
although they agreed that he was "stand-offish and kind of queer,"
voted him "just lovely, all the same." Their envious beaux
referred to him sneeringly among themselves as a "stuck-up dude."
Some one of them remembered having been told that Captain Zelotes,
years before, had been accustomed to speak of his hated son-in-law
as "the Portygee." Behind his back they formed the habit of
referring to their new rival in the same way. The first time
Albert heard himself called a "Portygee" was after prayer meeting
on Friday evening, when, obeying a whim, he had walked home with
Gertie Kendrick, quite forgetful of the fact that Sam Thatcher, who
aspired to be Gertie's "steady," was himself waiting on the church
steps for that privilege.
Even then nothing might have come of it had he and Sam not met in
the path as he was sauntering back across lots to the main road
and home. It was a brilliant moonlight night and the pair came
together, literally, at the bend where the path turns sharply
around the corner of Elijah Doane's cranberry shanty. Sam, plowing
along, head down and hands in his pockets, swung around that corner
and bumped violently into Albert, who, a cigarette between his
lips--out here in the fields, away from civilization and Captain
Zelotes, was a satisfyingly comfortable place to smoke a cigarette--
was dreaming dreams of a future far away from South Harniss. Sam
had been thinking of Gertie. Albert had not. She had been a mere
incident of the evening; he had walked home with her because he
happened to be in the mood for companionship and she was rather
pretty and always talkative. His dreams during the stroll back
alone in the moonlight had been of lofty things, of poetry and fame
and high emprise; giggling Gerties had no place in them. It was
distinctly different with Sam Thatcher.
They crashed together, gasped and recoiled.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" exclaimed Albert.
"Can't you see where you're goin', you darned Portygee half-breed?"
Albert, who had stepped past him, turned and came back.
"What did you say?" he asked.
"I said you was a darned half-breed, and you are. You're a no-good
Portygee, like your father."
It was all he had time to say. For the next few minutes he was too
busy to talk. The Speranzas, father and son, possessed temperament;
also they possessed temper. Sam's face, usually placid and
good-natured, for Sam was by no means a bad fellow in his way, was
fiery red. Albert's, on the contrary, went perfectly white. He
seemed to settle back on his heels and from there almost to fly at
his insulter. Five minutes or so later they were both dusty and
dirty and dishevelled and bruised, but Sam was pretty thoroughly
licked. For one thing, he had been taken by surprise by his
adversary's quickness; for another, Albert's compulsory training in
athletics at school gave him an advantage. He was by no means an
unscarred victor, but victor he was. Sam was defeated, and very
much astonished. He leaned against the cranberry house and held on
to his nose. It had been a large nose in the beginning, it was
Albert stood before him, his face--where it was not a pleasing
combination of black and blue--still white.
"If you--if you speak of my father or me again like that," he
panted, "I'll--I'll kill you!"
Then he strode off, a bit wobbly on his legs, but with dignity.
Oddly enough, no one except the two most interested ever knew of
this encounter. Albert, of course, did not tell. He was rather
ashamed of it. For the son of Miguel Carlos Speranza to conquer
dragons was a worthy and heroic business, but there seemed to be
mighty little heroism in licking Sam Thatcher behind 'Lije Doane's
cranberry shack. And Sam did not tell. Gertie next day confided
that she didn't care two cents for that stuck-up Al Speranza,
anyway; she had let him see her home only because Sam had danced so
many times with Elsie Wixon at the ball that night. So Sam said
nothing concerning the fight, explaining the condition of his nose
by saying that he had run into something in the dark. And he did
not appear to hold a grudge against his conqueror; on the contrary
when others spoke of the latter as a "sissy," Sam defended him.
"He may be a dude," said Sam; "I don't say he ain't. But he ain't
When pressed to tell why he was so certain, his answer was:
"Because he don't act like one." It was not a convincing answer,
the general opinion being that that was exactly how Al Speranza did
There was one young person in the village toward whom Albert found
himself making exceptions in his attitude of serenely impersonal
tolerance. That person was Helen Kendall, the girl who had come
into his grandfather's office the first morning of his stay in
South Harniss. He was forced to make these exceptions by the young
lady herself. When he met her the second time--which was after
church on his first Sunday--his manner was even more loftily
reserved than usual. He had distinct recollections of their first
conversation. His own part in it had not been brilliant, and in it
he had made the absurd statement--absurd in the light of what came
after--that he was certainly NOT employed by Z. Snow and Co.
So he was cool and superior when his grandmother brought them
together after the meeting was over. If Helen noticed the
superiority, she was certainly not over-awed by it, for she was so
simple and natural and pleasant that he was obliged to unbend and
be natural too. In fact, at their third meeting he himself spoke
of the interview in the lumber office and again expressed his
thanks for warning him of his grandfather's detestation of
"Gee!" he exclaimed, "I'm certainly glad that you put me on to the
old boy's feelings. I think he'd have murdered me if he had come
back and found me puffing a Pall Mall in there."
She smiled. "He does hate them, doesn't he?" she said.
"Hate them! I should say he did. Hating cigarettes is about the
only point where he and Issy get along without an argument. If a
traveler for a hardware house comes into the office smoking a cig,
Issy opens all the windows to let the smell out, and Grandfather
opens the door to throw the salesman out. Well, not exactly to
throw him out, of course, but he never buys a single cent's worth
of a cigarette smoker."
Helen glanced at him. "You must be awfully glad you're not a
traveling salesman," she said demurely.
Albert did not know exactly what to make of that remark. He, in
his turn, looked at her, but she was grave and quite unconcerned.
"Why?" he asked, after a moment.
"Why ought I to be glad I'm not a traveling salesman?"
"Oh, I don't know. It just seemed to me that you ought, that's
"Well, if you were you wouldn't make a great hit with your
grandfather, would you?"
"Eh? . . . Oh, you mean because I smoke. Say, YOU'RE not silly
enough to be down on cigarettes the way grandfather is, are you?"
"No-o, I'm not down on them, especially. I'm not very well
acquainted with them."
"Neither is he. He never smoked one in his life. It's just
country prejudice, that's all."
"Well, I live in the country, too, you know."
"Yes, but you're different."
"How do you know I am?"
"Oh, because any one can see you are." The manner in which this
remark was made, a manner implying a wide knowledge of humanity and
a hint of personal interest and discriminating appreciation, had
been found quite effective by the precocious young gentleman
uttering it. With variations to suit the case and the individual
it had been pleasantly received by several of the Misses Bradshaw's
pupils. He followed it with another equally tried and trustworthy.
"Say," he added, "would YOU rather I didn't smoke?"
The obvious reply should have been, "Oh, would you stop if I asked
you to?" But Helen Kendall was a most disconcerting girl. Instead
of purring a pleased recognition of the implied flattery, she
laughed merrily. The Speranza dignity was hurt.
"What is there to laugh at?" he demanded. "Are you laughing at
The answer was as truthful as truth itself.
"Why, of course I am," she replied; and then completed his
discomfiture by adding, "Why should I care whether you smoke or
not? You had better ask your grandfather that question, I should
Now Alberto Miguel Carlos Speranza had not been accustomed to this
sort of treatment from young persons of the other sex, and he
walked away in a huff. But the unusual is always attractive, and
the next time he and Miss Kendall met he was as gracious and
cordial as ever. But it was not long before he learned that the
graciousness was, in her case, a mistake. Whenever he grew lofty,
she took him down, laughed at him with complete frankness, and
refused to treat him as anything but a boy. So they gradually grew
friendly, and when they met at parties or church socials he spent
most of the time in her company, or, rather, he would have so spent
it had she permitted. But she was provokingly impartial and was
quite as likely to refuse a dance with him to sit out one with Sam
Thatcher or Ben Hammond or any other village youth of her
acquaintance. However, although she piqued and irritated him, he
was obliged to admit to his inner consciousness that she was the
most interesting person he had yet discovered in South Harniss,
also that even in the eyes of such connoisseurs as his fellow
members of the senior class at school she would have been judged a
"good looker," in spite of her country clothes.
He met her father, of course. The Reverend Mr. Kendall was a dreamy
little old gentleman with white hair and the stooped shoulders of a
student. Everybody liked him, and it was for that reason principally
that he was still the occupant of the Congregational pulpit, for to
quote Captain Zelotes, his sermons were inclined to be like the
sandy road down to Setuckit Point, "ten mile long and dry all the
way." He was a widower and his daughter was his companion and
managing housekeeper. There was a half-grown girl, one of the
numerous Price family, a cousin of Issachar's, who helped out with
the sweeping, dish-washing and cooking, but Helen was the real head
of the household.
"And she's a capable one, too," declared Mrs. Snow, when at supper
one evening Helen's name had come into the conversation. "I
declare when I was there yesterday to see the minister about
readin' poetry to us at sewin'-circle next Monday that parlor was
as neat as wax. And 'twas all Helen's work that kept it so, that
was plain enough. You could see her way of settin' a vase or
puttin' on a table cloth wherever you looked. Nobody else has just
that way. And she does it after school or before school or 'most
any odd time. And whatever 'tis is done right."
The housekeeper put in a word. "There's no doubt about that," she
said, "and there ain't any more doubt that she don't get much help
from her pa or that Maria B." There were so many Prices within the
township limits that individuals were usually distinguished by
their middle initial. "As for Mr. Kendall," went on Rachel, "he
moves with his head in the clouds and his feet cruisin' with nobody
at the wheel two-thirds of the time. Emma Smith says to me
yesterday, says she, 'Mr. Kendall is a saint on earth, ain't he,'
says she. 'Yes,' says I, 'and he'll be one in heaven any minute if
he goes stumblin' acrost the road in front of Doctor Holliday's
automobile the way I see him yesterday.' The doctor put on the
brakes with a slam and a yell. The minister stopped right there in
the middle of the road with the front wheels of that auto not
MORE'N two foot from his old baggy trousers' knees, and says he,
'Eh? Did you want me, Doctor?' The doctor fetched a long breath.
'Why, no, Mr. Kendall,' he says, 'I didn't, but I come darn nigh
gettin' you.' I don't know what WOULD become of him if he didn't
have Helen to look out for him."
As they came to know each other better their conversation dealt
with matters more personal. They sometimes spoke of plans for the
future. Albert's plans and ambitions were lofty, but rather vague.
Helen's were practical and definite. She was to graduate from high
school that spring. Then she was hoping to teach in the primary
school there in the village; the selectmen had promised her the
"But, of course," she said, "I don't mean to stay here always.
When I can, after I have saved some money and if Father doesn't
need me too badly, I shall go away somewhere, to Bridgewater, or
perhaps to Radcliffe, and study. I want to specialize in my
teaching, you know."
Albert regarded her with amused superiority.
"I don't see why on earth you are so anxious to be a school-marm,"
he said. "That's the last job I'd want."
Her answer was given promptly, but without the least trace of
temper. That was one of the most provoking things about this girl,
she would not lose her temper. He usually lost his trying to make
her. She spoke now, pleasantly, and deliberately, but as if she
were stating an undesirable fact.
"I think it would be the last one you would get," she said.
"Why? Great Scott! I guess I could teach school if I wanted to.
But you bet I wouldn't want to! . . . NOW what are you laughing
"I'm not laughing."
"Yes, you are. I can always tell when you're laughing; you get
that look in your eyes, that sort of--of-- Oh, I can't tell you
what kind of look it is, but it makes me mad. It's the same kind
of look my grandfather has, and I could punch him for it sometimes.
Why should you and he think I'm not going to amount to anything?"
"I don't think so. And I'm sure he doesn't either. And I wasn't
laughing at you. Or, if I was, it--it was only because--"
"Well, because what?"
"Oh, because you are so AWFULLY sure you know--well, know more than
"Meaning I'm stuck on myself, I suppose. Well, now I tell you I'm
not going to hang around in this one-horse town all my life to
please grandfather or any one else."
When he mentioned his determination to win literary glory she was
always greatly interested. Dreams of histrionic achievement were
more coldly received. The daughter of a New England country
clergyman, even in these days of broadening horizons, could
scarcely be expected to look with favor upon an actor's career.
June came and with it the first of the summer visitors. For the
next three months Albert was happy with a new set of acquaintances.
They were HIS kind, these young folks from the city, and his spare
moments were for the most part spent in their society. He was
popular with them, too. Some of them thought it queer that he
should be living all the year in the village and keeping books for
a concern like Z. Snow and Co., but juvenile society is tolerant
and a youth who could sing passably, dance wonderfully and, above
all, was as beautifully picturesque as Albert Speranza, was
welcomed, especially by the girls. So the Saturdays and Sundays
and evenings of that summer were pleasant for him. He saw little
of Helen or Gertie Kendrick while the hotel or the cottages
Then came the fall and another long, dreary winter. Albert plodded
on at his desk or in the yard, following Mr. Keeler's suggestions,
obeying his grandfather's orders, tormenting Issy, doing his daily
stint because he had to, not because he liked it. For amusement he
read a good deal, went to the usual number of sociables and
entertainments, and once took part in amateur theatricals, a play
given by the church society in the town hall. There was where he
shone. As the dashing young hero he was resplendent. Gertie
Kendrick gazed upon him from the third settee center with shining
eyes. When he returned home after it was over his grandmother and
Mrs. Ellis overwhelmed him with praises.
"I declare you was perfectly splendid, Albert!" exclaimed Olive.
"I was so proud of you I didn't know what to do."
Rachel looked upon him as one might look upon a god from Olympus.
"All I could think of was Robert Penfold," she said. "I says so to
Laban: 'Laban,' says I, ain't he Robert Penfold and nobody else?'
There you was, tellin' that Hannibal Ellis that you was innocent
and some day the world would know you was, just the way Robert
Penfold done in the book. I never did like that Hannie Ellis!"
Mrs. Snow smiled. "Mercy, Rachel," she said, "I hope you're not
blamin' Hannie because of what he did in that play. That was his
part, he had to do it."
But Rachel was not convinced. "He didn't have to be so everlastin'
mean and spiteful about it, anyhow," she declared. "But there,
that family of Ellises never did amount to nothin' much. But, as I
said to Laban, Albert, you was Robert Penfold all over."
"What did Labe say to that?" asked Albert, laughing.
"He never had a chance to say nothin'. Afore he could answer,
that Maria B. Price--she was settin' right back of me and eatin'
molasses candy out of a rattly paper bag till I thought I SHOULD
die--she leaned forward and she whispered: 'He looks more to me
like that Stevie D. that used to work for Cap'n Crowell over to
the Center. Stevie D. had curly hair like that and HE was part
Portygee, you remember; though there was a little nigger blood in
him, too,' she says. I could have shook her! And then she went to
rattlin' that bag again."
Even Mr. Keeler congratulated him at the office next morning. "You
done well, Al," he said. "Yes--yes--yes. You done fust-rate,
His grandfather was the only one who refused to enthuse.
"Well," inquired Captain Zelotes, sitting down at his desk and
glancing at his grandson over his spectacles, "do you cal'late to
be able to get down to earth this mornin' far enough to figger up
the payroll? You can put what you made from play-actin' on a
separate sheet. It's about as much as the average person makes at
that job," he added.
Albert's face flushed. There were times when he hated his
grandfather. Mr. Keeler, a moment later, put a hand on his
"You mustn't mind the old man, Al," he whispered. "I expect that
seein' you last night brought your dad's job back to him strong.
He can't bear play-actin', you know, on your dad's account. Yes--
yes. That was it. Yes--yes--yes."
It may have been a truthful explanation, but as an apology it was a
"My father was a gentleman, at any rate," snapped Albert. Laban
opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again and walked back to
In May, which was an unusually balmy month, the Congregational
Sunday School gave an automobile excursion and box-luncheon party
at High Point Light down at Trumet. As Rachel Ellis said, it was
pretty early for picnickin', but if the Almighty's season was ahead
of time there didn't seem to be any real good reason why one of his
Sunday schools shouldn't be. And, which was the principal excuse
for the hurry, the hotel busses could be secured, which would not
be the case after the season opened.
Albert went to the picnic. He was not very keen on going, but his
grandfather had offered him a holiday for the purpose, and it was
one of his principles never to refuse a chance to get away from
that office. Besides, a number of the young people of his age were
going, and Gertie Kendrick had been particularly insistent.
"You just MUST come, Al," she said. "It won't be any fun at all if
you don't come."
It is possible that Gertie found it almost as little fun when he
did come. He happened to be in one of his moods that day;
"Portygee streaks," his grandfather termed these moods, and told
Olive that they were "that play-actor breakin' out in him." He
talked but little during the ride down in the bus, refused to sing
when called upon, and, after dinner, when the dancing in the
pavilion was going on, stepped quietly out of the side door and
went tramping along the edge of the bluff, looking out over the sea
or down to the beach, where, one hundred and fifty feet below, the
big waves were curling over to crash into a creamy mass of froth
and edge the strand with lacy ripples.
The high clay bluffs of Trumet are unique. No other part of the
Cape shows anything just like them. High Point Light crowns their
highest and steepest point and is the flashing beacon the rays of
which spell "America" to the incoming liner Boston bound.
Along the path skirting the edge of the bluff Albert strolled, his
hands in his pockets and his thoughts almost anywhere except on the
picnic and the picnickers of the South Harniss Congregational
Church. His particular mood on this day was one of discontent and
rebellion against the fate which had sentenced him to the assistant
bookkeeper's position in the office of Z. Snow and Co. At no time
had he reconciled himself to the idea of that position as a
permanent one; some day, somehow he was going to break away and
do--marvelous things. But occasionally, and usually after a
disagreeable happening in the office, he awoke from his youthful
day dreams of glorious futures to a realization of the dismal to-
The happening which had brought about realization in this instance
was humorous in the eyes of two-thirds of South Harniss's
population. They were chuckling over it yet. The majority of
the remaining third were shocked. Albert, who was primarily
responsible for the whole affair, was neither amused nor shocked;
he was angry and humiliated.
The Reverend Seabury Calvin, of Providence, R. I., had arrived in
town and opened his summer cottage unusually early in the season.
What was quite as important, Mrs. Seabury Calvin had arrived with
him. The Reverend Calvin, whose stay was in this case merely
temporary, was planning to build an addition to his cottage porch.
Mrs. Calvin, who was the head of the summer "Welfare Workers,"
whatever they were, had called a meeting at the Calvin house to
make Welfare plans for the season.
The lumber for the new porch was ordered of Z. Snow and Co. The
Reverend Calvin ordered it himself in person. Albert received the
"I wish this delivered to-morrow without fail," said Mr. Calvin.
But promises are not always easy to keep. One of Z. Snow and Co.'s
teams was busy hauling lumber for the new schoolhouse at Bayport.
The other Issachar had commandeered for deliveries at Harniss
Center and refused to give up his claim. And Laban Keeler, as it
happened, was absent on one of his "vacations." Captain Zelotes
was attending a directors' meeting at Osham and from there was
going to Boston for a day's stay.
"The ship's in your hands, Al," he had said to his grandson. "Let
me see how you handle her."
So, in spite of Albert's promise, the Calvin lumber was not
delivered on time. The Reverend gentleman called to ask why. His
manner was anything but receptive so far as excuses were concerned.
"Young man," he said loftily, "I am accustomed to do business with
business people. Did you or did you not promise to deliver my
"Why, yes sir, I promised, but we couldn't do it. We--"
"I don't care to know why you didn't do it. The fact that you did
not is sufficient. Will that order of mine be delivered to-day?"
"If it is a possible thing, Mr. Calvin, it--"
"Pardon me. Will it be delivered?"
The Speranza temper was rising. "Yes," said the owner of that
"Does yes mean yes, in this case; or does it mean what it meant
"I have told you why--"