Part 3 out of 8
"Never mind. Young man, if that lumber is not delivered to-day I
shall cancel the order. Do you understand?"
Albert swallowed hard. "I tell you, Mr. Calvin, that it shall be
delivered," he said. "And it will be."
But delivering it was not so easy. The team simply could NOT be
taken off the schoolhouse job, fulfillment of a contract was
involved there. And the other horse had gone lame and Issachar
swore by all that was solemn that the animal must not be used.
"Let old Calvin wait till to-morrow," said Issy. "You can use the
big team then. And Cap'n Lote'll be home, besides."
But Albert was not going to let "old Calvin" wait. That lumber was
going to be delivered, if he had to carry it himself, stick by
stick. He asked Mr. Price if an extra team might not be hired.
"Ain't none," said Issy. "Besides, where'd your granddad's profits
be if you spent money hirin' extry teams to haul that little mite
of stuff? I've been in this business a good long spell, and I tell
He did not get a chance to tell it, for Albert walked off and left
him. At half-past twelve that afternoon he engaged "Vessie" Young--
christened Sylvester Young and a brother to the driver of the
depot wagon--to haul the Calvin lumber in his rickety, fragrant old
wagon. Simpson Mullen--commonly called "Simp"--was to help in the
Against violent protests from Issy, who declared that Ves Young's
rattle-trap wan't fit to do nothin' but haul fish heads to the
fertilizer factory, the Calvin beams and boards were piled high on
the wagon and with Ves on the driver's seat and Simp perched, like
a disreputable carrion crow on top of the load, the equipage
"There!" exclaimed Albert, with satisfaction. "He can't say it
wasn't delivered this time according to promise."
"Godfreys!" snorted Issy, gazing after the departing wagon. "He
won't be able to say nothin' when he sees that git-up--and smells
it. Ves carts everything in that cart from dead cows to gurry
barrels. Whew! I'd hate to have to set on that porch when 'twas
built of that lumber. And, unless I'm mistook, Ves and Simp had
been havin' a little somethin' strong to take, too."
Mr. Price, as it happened, was not "mistook." Mr. Young had, as
the South Harniss saying used to be, "had a jug come down" on the
train from Boston that very morning. The jug was under the seat of
his wagon and its contents had already been sampled by him and by
Simp. The journey to the Calvin cottage was enlivened by frequent
stops for refreshment.
Consequently it happened that, just as Mrs. Calvin's gathering of
Welfare Workers had reached the cake and chocolate stage in their
proceedings and just as the Reverend Mr. Calvin had risen by
invitation to say a few words of encouragement, the westerly wind
blowing in at the open windows bore to the noses and ears of the
assembled faithful a perfume and a sound neither of which was
Above the rattle and squeak of the Young wagon turning in at the
Calvin gate arose the voices of Vessie and Simp uplifted in song.
"'Here's to the good old whiskey, drink 'er daown,'" sang Mr.
"'Here's to the good old whiskey,
Drink 'er daown!
Here's to the good old whiskey,
It makes you feel so frisky,
Git up there, blank blank ye! What the blankety blank you stoppin'
here for? Git up!"
The horse was not the only creature that got up. Mrs. Calvin rose
from her chair and gazed in horror at the window. Her husband,
being already on his feet, could not rise but he broke off short
the opening sentence of his "few words" and stared and listened.
Each Welfare Worker stared and listened also.
"Git up, you blankety blank blank," repeated Ves Young, with
cheerful enthusiasm. Mr. Mullen, from the top of the load of
lumber, caroled dreamily on:
"'Here's to the good old rum,
Drink 'er daown!
Here's to the good old rum,
Drink 'er daown!
Here's to the good old rum,
Ain't you glad that you've got some?
Drink 'er daown! Drink 'er daown!
Drink 'er daown!'"
And floating, as it were, upon the waves of melody came the odor of
the Young wagon, an odor combining deceased fish and late lamented
cow and goodness knows what beside.
The dissipated vehicle stopped beneath the parlor windows of the
Calvin cottage. Mr. Young called to his assistant.
"Here we be, Simp!" he yelled. "A-a-ll ashore that's goin' ashore!
Wake up there, you unmentionably described old rum barrel and help
unload this everlastingly condemned lumber."
Mr. Calvin rushed to the window. "What does this mean?" he
demanded, in frothing indignation.
Vessie waved at him reassuringly. "'Sall right, Mr. Calvin," he
shouted. "Here's your lumber from Ze-lotes Snow and Co., South
Harniss, Mass., U. S. A. 'Sall right. Let 'er go, Simp! Let 'er
Mr. Mullen responded with alacrity and a whoop. A half dozen
boards crashed to the ground beneath the parlor windows. Mrs.
Calvin rushed to her husband's side.
"This is DREADFUL, Seabury!" she cried. "Send those creatures and--
and that horrible wagon away at once."
The Reverend Calvin tried to obey orders. He commanded Mr. Young
to go away from there that very moment. Vessie was surprised.
"Ain't this your lumber?" he demanded.
"It doesn't make any difference whether it is or not, I--"
"Didn't you tell Z. Snow and Co. that this lumber'd got to be
delivered to-day or you'd cancel the order?"
"Never mind. That is my business, sir. You--"
"Hold on! Ho-o-ld on! _I_ got a business, too. My business is
deliverin' what I'm paid to deliver. Al Speranzy he says to me:
'Ves,' he says, 'if you don't deliver that lumber to old man Calvin
to-day you don't get no money, see. Will you deliver it?' Says I,
'You bet your crashety-blank life I'll (hic) d'liver it! What I
say I'll do, I'll do!' And I'm deliverin' it, ain't I? Hey?
Ain't I? Well, then, what the--" And so forth and at length,
while Mrs. Calvin collapsed half fainting in an easy-chair, and
horrified Welfare Workers covered their ears--and longed to cover
The lumber was delivered that day. Its delivery was, from the
viewpoint of Messrs. Young and Mullen, a success. The spring
meeting of the Welfare Workers was not a success.
The following day Mr. Calvin called at the office of Z. Snow and
Co. He had things to say and said them. Captain Zelotes, who had
returned from Boston, listened. Then he called his grandson.
"Tell him what you've just told me, Mr. Calvin," he said.
The reverend gentleman told it, with added details.
"And in my opinion, if you'll excuse me, Captain Snow," he said, in
conclusion, "this young man knew what he was doing when he sent
those drunken scoundrels to my house. He did it purposely, I am
Captain Zelotes looked at him.
"Why?" he asked.
"Why, because--because of--of what I said to him--er--er--when I
called here yesterday morning. He--I presume he took offense and--
and this outrage is the result. I am convinced that--"
"Wait a minute. What did you say for him to take offense at?"
"I demanded that order should be delivered as promised. I am
accustomed to do business with business men and--"
"Hold on just a minute more, Mr. Calvin. We don't seem to be
gettin' at the clam in this shell as fast as we'd ought to. Al,
what have you got to say about all this business?"
Albert was white, almost as white as when he fought Sam Thatcher,
but as he stood up to Sam so also did he face the irate clergyman.
He told of the latter's visit to the office, of the threat to
cancel the order unless delivery was promised that day, of how his
promise to deliver was exacted, of his effort to keep that promise.
"I HAD to deliver it, Grandfather," he said hotly. "He had all but
called me a liar and--and by George, I wasn't going to--"
His grandfather held up a warning hand.
"Sshh! Ssh!" he said. "Go on with your yarn, boy."
Albert told of the lame horse, of his effort to hire another team,
and finally how in desperation he had engaged Ves Young as a last
resort. The captain's face was serious but there was the twinkle
under his heavy brows. He pulled at his beard.
"Humph!" he grunted. "Did you know Ves and Simp had been drinkin'
when you hired 'em?"
"Of course I didn't. After they had gone Issy said he suspected
that they had been drinking a little, but _I_ didn't know it. All
I wanted was to prove to HIM," with a motion toward Mr. Calvin,
"that I kept my word."
Captain Zelotes pulled at his beard. "All right, Al," he said,
after a moment; "you can go."
Albert went out of the private office. After he had gone the
captain turned to his irate customer.
"I'm sorry this happened, Mr. Calvin," he said, "and if Keeler or I
had been here it probably wouldn't. But," he added, "as far as I
can see, the boy did what he thought was the best thing to do.
And," the twinkle reappeared in the gray eyes, "you sartinly did
get your lumber when 'twas promised."
Mr. Calvin stiffened. He had his good points, but he suffered from
what Laban Keeler once called "ingrowin' importance," and this
ailment often affected his judgment. Also he had to face Mrs.
Calvin upon his return home.
"Do I understand," he demanded, "that you are excusing that young
man for putting that outrage upon me?"
"We-ll, as I say, I'm sorry it happened. But, honest, Mr. Calvin,
I don't know's the boy's to blame so very much, after all. He
delivered your lumber, and that's somethin'."
"Is that all you have to say, Captain Snow? Is that--that impudent
young clerk of yours to go unpunished?"
"Why, yes, I guess likely he is."
"Then I shall NEVER buy another dollar's worth of your house again,
Captain Zelotes bowed. "I'm sorry to lose your trade, Mr. Calvin,"
he said. "Good mornin'."
Albert, at his desk in the outer office, was waiting rebelliously
to be called before his grandfather and upbraided. And when so
called he was in a mood to speak his mind. He would say a few
things, no matter what happened in consequence. But he had no
chance to say them. Captain Zelotes did not mention the Calvin
affair to him, either that day or afterward. Albert waited and
waited, expecting trouble, but the trouble, so far as his
grandfather was concerned, did not materialize. He could not
But if in that office there was silence concerning the unusual
delivery of the lumber for the Calvin porch, outside there was talk
enough and to spare. Each Welfare Worker talked when she reached
home and the story spread. Small boys shouted after Albert when he
walked down the main street, demanding to know how Ves Young's cart
was smellin' these days. When he entered the post office some one
in the crowd was almost sure to hum, "Here's to the good old
whiskey, drink her down." On the train on the way to the picnic,
girls and young fellows had slyly nagged him about it. The affair
and its consequence were the principal causes of his mood that day;
this particular "Portygee streak" was due to it.
The path along the edge of the high bluff entered a grove of
scraggy pitch pines about a mile from the lighthouse and the picnic
ground. Albert stalked gloomily through the shadows of the little
grove and emerged on the other side. There he saw another person
ahead of him on the path. This other person was a girl. He
recognized her even at this distance. She was Helen Kendall,
She and he had not been quite as friendly of late. Not that there
was any unfriendliness between them, but she was teaching in the
primary school and, as her father had not been well, spent most of
her evenings at home. During the early part of the winter he had
called occasionally but, somehow, it had seemed to him that she
was not quite as cordial, or as interested in his society and
conversation as she used to be. It was but a slight indifference
on her part, perhaps, but Albert Speranza was not accustomed to
indifference on the part of his feminine acquaintances. So he did
not call again. He had seen her at the picnic ground and they had
spoken, but not at any length.
And he did not care to speak with her now. He had left the
pavilion because of his desire to be alone, and that desire still
persisted. However, she was some little distance ahead of him and
he waited in the edge of the grove until she should go over the
crest of the little hill at the next point.
But she did not go over the crest. Instead, when she reached it,
she walked to the very edge of the bluff and stood there looking
off at the ocean. The sea breeze ruffled her hair and blew her
skirts about her and she made a pretty picture. But to Albert it
seemed that she was standing much too near the edge. She could not
see it, of course, but from where he stood he could see that the
bank at that point was much undercut by the winter rains and winds,
and although the sod looked firm enough from above, in reality
there was little to support it. Her standing there made him a
trifle uneasy and he had a mind to shout and warn her. He
hesitated, however, and as he watched she stepped back of her own
accord. He turned, re-entered the grove and started to walk back
to the pavilion.
He had scarcely done so when he heard a short scream followed by a
thump and a rumbling, rattling sound. He turned like a flash, his
heart pounding violently.
The bluff edge was untenanted. A semi-circular section of the sod
where Helen had stood was missing. From the torn opening where it
had been rose a yellow cloud of dust.
A goodly number of the South Harniss "natives," those who had not
seen him play tennis, would have been willing to swear that running
was, for Albert Speranza, an impossibility. His usual gait was a
rather languid saunter. They would have changed their minds had
they seen him now.
He ran along that path as he had run in school at the last track
meet, where he had been second in the hundred-yard dash. He
reached the spot where the sod had broken and, dropping on his
knees, looked fearfully over. The dust was still rising, the sand
and pebbles were still rattling in a diminishing shower down to the
beach so far below. But he did not see what he had so feared to
What he did see, however, was neither pleasant nor altogether
reassuring. The bluff below the sod at its top dropped sheer and
undercut for perhaps ten feet. Then the sand and clay sloped
outward and the slope extended down for another fifty feet, its
surface broken by occasional clinging chunks of beach grass. Then
it broke sharply again, a straight drop of eighty feet to the
mounds and dunes bordering the beach.
Helen had of course fallen straight to the upper edge of the slope,
where she had struck feet first, and from there had slid and rolled
to the very edge of the long drop to the beach. Her skirt had
caught in the branches of an enterprising bayberry bush which had
managed to find roothold there, and to this bush and a clump of
beach grass she was clinging, her hands outstretched and her body
extended along the edge of the clay precipice.
"Helen!" he called breathlessly.
She turned her head and looked up at him. Her face was white, but
she did not scream.
"Helen!" cried Albert, again. "Helen, do you hear me?"
"Are you badly hurt?"
"No. No, I don't think so."
"Can you hold on just as you are for a few minutes?"
"Yes, I--I think so."
"You've got to, you know. Here! You're not going to faint, are
"No, I--I don't think I am."
"You can't! You mustn't! Here! Don't you do it! Stop!"
There was just a trace of his grandfather in the way he shouted the
order. Whether or not the vigor of the command produced the result
is a question, but at any rate she did not faint.
"Now you stay right where you are," he ordered again. "And hang on
as tight as you can. I'm coming down."
Come down he did, swinging over the brink with his face to the
bank, dropping on his toes to the upper edge of the slope and
digging boots and fingers into the clay to prevent sliding further.
"Hang on!" he cautioned, over his shoulder. "I'll be there in a
second. There! Now wait until I get my feet braced. Now give me
your hand--your left hand. Hold on with your right."
Slowly and cautiously, clinging to his hand, he pulled her away
from the edge of the precipice and helped her to scramble up to
where he clung. There she lay and panted. He looked at her
"Don't go and faint now, or any foolishness like that," he ordered
"No, no, I won't. I'll try not to. But how are we ever going to
climb up--up there?"
Above them and at least four feet out of reach, even if they stood
up, and that would be a frightfully risky proceeding, the sod
projected over their heads like the eaves of a house.
Helen glanced up at it and shuddered.
"Oh, how CAN we?" she gasped.
"We can't. And we won't try."
"Shall we call for help?"
"Not much use. Nobody to hear us. Besides, we can always do that
if we have to. I think I see a way out of the mess. If we can't
get up, perhaps we can get down."
"Yes, it isn't all as steep as it is here. I believe we might sort
of zig-zag down if we were careful. You hold on here just as you
are; I'm going to see what it looks like around this next point."
The "point" was merely a projection of the bluff about twenty feet
away. He crawfished along the face of the slope, until he could
see beyond it. Helen kept urging him to be careful--oh, be
"Of course I'll be careful," he said curtly. "I don't want to
break my neck. Yes--yes, by George, it IS easier around there! We
could get down a good way. Here, here; don't start until you take
my hand. And be sure your feet are braced before you move. Come
"I--I don't believe I can."
"Of course you can. You've GOT to. Come on. Don't look down.
Look at the sand right in front of you."
Getting around that point was a decidedly ticklish operation, but
they managed it, he leading the way, making sure of his foothold
before moving and then setting her foot in the print his own had
made. On the other side of the projection the slope was less
abrupt and extended much nearer to the ground below. They
zigzagged down until nearly to the edge of the steep drop. Then
Albert looked about for a new path to safety. He found it still
"It takes us down farther," he said, "and there are bushes to hold
on to after we get there. Come on, Helen! Brace up now, be a
She was trying her best to obey orders, but being a sport was no
slight undertaking under the circumstances. When they reached the
clump of bushes her guide ordered her to rest.
"Just stop and catch your breath," he said. "The rest is going to
be easier, I think. And we haven't so very far to go."
He was too optimistic. It was anything but easy; in fact, the last
thirty feet was almost a tumble, owing to the clay giving way
beneath their feet. But there was soft sand to tumble into and
they reached the beach safe, though in a dishevelled, scratched and
thoroughly smeared condition. Then Helen sat down and covered her
face with her hands. Her rescuer gazed triumphantly up at the
distant rim of broken sod and grinned.
"There, by George!" he exclaimed. "We did it, didn't we? Say,
that was fun!"
She removed her hands and looked at him.
"WHAT did you say it was?" she faltered.
"I said it was fun. It was great! Like something out of a book,
She began to laugh hysterically. He turned to her in indignant
surprise. "What are you laughing at?" he demanded.
"Oh--oh, don't, please! Just let me laugh. If I don't laugh I
shall cry, and I don't want to do that. Just don't talk to me for
a few minutes, that's all."
When the few minutes were over she rose to her feet.
"Now we must get back to the pavilion, I suppose," she said. "My,
but we are sights, though! Do let's see if we can't make ourselves
a little more presentable."
She did her best to wipe off the thickest of the clay smears with
her handkerchief, but the experiment was rather a failure. As they
started to walk back along the beach she suddenly turned to him and
"I haven't told you how--how much obliged I am for--for what you
did. If you hadn't come, I don't know what would have happened to
"Oh, that's all right," he answered lightly. He was reveling in
the dramatic qualities of the situation. She did not speak again
for some time and he, too, walked on in silence enjoying his day
dream. Suddenly he became aware that she was looking at him
steadily and with an odd expression on her face.
"What is it?" he asked. "Why do you look at me that way?"
Her answer was, as usual, direct and frank.
"I was thinking about you," she said. "I was thinking that I must
have been mistaken, partly mistaken, at least."
"Mistaken? About me, do you mean?"
"Yes; I had made up my mind that you were--well, one sort of
fellow, and now I see that you are an entirely different sort.
That is, you've shown that you can be different."
"What on earth do you mean by that?"
"Why, I mean--I mean-- Oh, I'm sure I had better not say it. You
won't like it, and will think I had better mind my own affairs--
which I should do, of course."
"Go on; say it."
She looked at him again, evidently deliberating whether or not to
speak her thought. Then she said:
"Well, I will say it. Not that it is really my business, but
because in a way it is begging your pardon, and I ought to do that.
You see, I had begun to believe that you were--that you were--well,
that you were not very--very active, you know."
"Active? Say, look here, Helen! What--"
"Oh, I don't wonder you don't understand. I mean that you were
rather--rather fond of not doing much--of--of--"
"Eh? Not doing much? That I was lazy, do you mean?"
"Why, not exactly lazy, perhaps, but--but-- Oh, how CAN I say just
what I mean! I mean that you were always saying that you didn't
like the work in your grandfather's office."
"Which I don't."
"And that some day you were going to do something else."
Which I am."
"Write or act or do something--"
"Yes, and that's true, too."
"But you don't, you know. You don't do anything. You've been
talking that way ever since I knew you, calling this a one-horse
town and saying how you hated it, and that you weren't going to
waste your life here, and all that, but you keep staying here and
doing just the same things. The last long talk we had together you
told me you knew you could write poems and plays and all sorts of
things, you just felt that you could. You were going to begin
right away. You said that some months ago, and you haven't done
any writing at all. Now, have you?"
"No-o. No, but that doesn't mean I shan't by and by."
"But you didn't begin as you said you would. That was last spring,
more than a year ago, and I don't believe you have tried to write a
single poem. Have you?"
He was beginning to be ruffled. It was quite unusual for any one,
most of all for a girl, to talk to him in this way.
"I don't know that I have," he said loftily. "And, anyway, I don't
see that it is--is--"
"My business whether you have or not. I know it isn't. I'm sorry
I spoke. But, you see, I-- Oh, well, never mind. And I do want
you to know how much I appreciate your helping me as you did just
now. I don't know how to thank you for that."
But thanks were not exactly what he wanted at that moment.
"Go ahead and say the rest," he ordered, after a short pause.
"You've said so much that you had better finish it, seems to me.
I'm lazy, you think. What else am I?"
"You're brave, awfully brave, and you are so strong and quick--yes,
and--and--masterful; I think that is the right word. You ordered
me about as if I were a little girl. I didn't want to keep still,
as you told me to; I wanted to scream. And I wanted to faint, too,
but you wouldn't let me. I had never seen you that way before. I
didn't know you could be like that. That is what surprises me so.
That is why I said you were so different."
Here was balm for wounded pride. Albert's chin lifted. "Oh, that
was nothing," he said. "Whatever had to be done must be done right
off, I could see that. You couldn't hang on where you were very
She shuddered. "No," she replied, "I could not. But _I_ couldn't
think WHAT to do, and you could. Yes, and did it, and made me do
The chin lifted still more and the Speranza chest began to expand.
Helen's next remark was in the natures of a reducer for the said
"If you could be so prompt and strong and--and energetic then," she
said, "I can't help wondering why you aren't like that all the
time. I had begun to think you were just--just--"
"Lazy, eh?" he suggested.
"Why--why, no-o, but careless and indifferent and with not much
ambition, certainly. You had talked so much about writing and yet
you never tried to write anything, that--that--"
"That you thought I was all bluff. Thanks! Any more compliments?"
She turned on him impulsively. "Oh, don't!" she exclaimed.
"Please don't! I know what I am saying sounds perfectly horrid,
and especially now when you have just saved me from being badly
hurt, if not killed. But don't you see that--that I am saying it
because I am interested in you and sure you COULD do so much if you
only would? If you would only try."
This speech was a compound of sweet and bitter. Albert
characteristically selected the sweet.
"Helen," he asked, in his most confidential tone, "would you like
to have me try and write something? Say, would you?"
"Of course I would. Oh, will you?"
"Well, if YOU asked me I might. For your sake, you know."
She stopped and stamped her foot impatiently.
"Oh, DON'T be silly!" she exclaimed. "I don't want you to do it
for my sake. I want you to do it for your own sake. Yes, and for
your grandfather's sake."
"My grandfather's sake! Great Scott, why do you drag him in? HE
doesn't want me to write poetry."
"He wants you to do something, to succeed. I know that."
"He wants me to stay here and help Labe Keeler and Issy Price. He
wants me to spend all my life in that office of his; that's what HE
wants. Now hold on, Helen! I'm not saying anything against the
old fellow. He doesn't like me, I know, but--"
"You DON'T know. He does like you. Or he wants to like you very
much indeed. He would like to have you carry on the Snow Company's
business after he has gone, but if you can't--or won't--do that, I
know he would be very happy to see you succeed at anything--
Albert laughed scornfully. "Even at writing poetry?" he asked.
"Why, yes, at writing; although of course he doesn't know a thing
about it and can't understand how any one can possibly earn a
living that way. He has read or heard about poets and authors
starving in garrets and he thinks they're all like that. But if
you could only show him and prove to him that you could succeed by
writing, he would be prouder of you than any one else would be. I
He regarded her curiously. "You seem to know a lot about my
grandfather," he observed.
"I do know something about him. He and I have been friends ever
since I was a little girl, and I like him very much indeed. If he
were my grandfather I should be proud of him. And I think you
ought to be."
She flashed the last sentence at him in a sudden heat of enthusiasm.
He was surprised at her manner.
"Gee! You ARE strong for the old chap, aren't you?" he said.
"Well, admitting that he is all right, just why should I be proud
of him? I AM proud of my father, of course; he was somebody in the
"You mean he was somebody just because he was celebrated and lots
of people knew about him. Celebrated people aren't the only ones
who do worth while things. If I were you, I should be proud of
Captain Zelotes because he is what he has made himself. Nobody
helped him; he did it all. He was a sea captain and a good one.
He has been a business man and a good one, even if the business
isn't so very big. Everybody here in South Harniss--yes, and all
up and down the Cape--knows of him and respects him. My father
says in all the years he has preached in his church he has never
heard a single person as much as hint that Captain Snow wasn't
absolutely honest, absolutely brave, and the same to everybody,
rich or poor. And all his life he has worked and worked hard.
What HE has belongs to him; he has earned it. That's why I should
be proud of him if he were my grandfather."
Her enthusiasm had continued all through this long speech. Albert
"Whew!" he exclaimed. "Regular cheer for Zelotes, fellows! One--
two--! Grandfather's got one person to stand up for him, I'll say
that. But why this sudden outbreak about him, anyhow? It was me
you were talking about in the beginning--though I didn't notice any
loud calls for cheers in that direction," he added.
She ignored the last part of the speech. "I think you yourself
made me think of him," she replied. "Sometimes you remind me of
him. Not often, but once in a while. Just now, when we were
climbing down that awful place you seemed almost exactly like him.
The way you knew just what to do all the time, and your not
hesitating a minute, and the way you took command of the situation
and," with a sudden laugh, "bossed me around; every bit of that was
like him, and not like you at all. Oh, I don't mean that," she
added hurriedly. "I mean it wasn't like you as you usually are.
It was different."
"Humph! Well, I must say-- See here, Helen Kendall, what is it
you expect me to do; sail in and write two or three sonnets and a
'Come Into the Garden, Maud,' some time next week? You're terribly
keen about Grandfather, but he has rather got the edge on me so far
as age goes. He's in the sixties, and I'm just about nineteen."
"When he was nineteen he was first mate of a ship."
"Yes, so I've heard him say. Maybe first-mating is a little bit
easier than writing poetry."
"And maybe it isn't. At any rate, he didn't know whether it was
easy or not until he tried. Oh, THAT'S what I would like to see
you do--TRY to do something. You could do it, too, almost anything
you tried, I do believe. I am confident you could. But-- Oh,
well, as you said at the beginning, it isn't my business at all,
and I've said ever and ever so much more than I meant to. Please
forgive me, if you can. I think my tumble and all the rest must
have made me silly. I'm sorry, Albert. There are the steps up to
the pavilion. See them!"
He was tramping on beside her, his hands in his pockets. He did
not look at the long flight of steps which had suddenly come into
view around the curve of the bluff. When he did look up and speak
it was in a different tone, some such tone as she had heard him use
during her rescue.
"All right," he said, with decision, "I'll show you whether I can
try or not. I know you think I won't, but I will. I'm going up to
my room to-night and I'm going to try to write something or other.
It may be the rottenest poem that ever was ground out, but I'll
grind it if it kills me."
She was pleased, that was plain, but she shook her head.
"Not to-night, Albert," she said. "To-night, after the picnic, is
Father's reception at the church. Of course you'll come to that."
"Of course I won't. Look here, you've called me lazy and
indifferent and a hundred other pet names this afternoon. Well,
this evening I'll make you take some of 'em back. Reception be
hanged! I'm going to write to-night."
That evening both Mrs. Snow and Rachel Ellis were much disturbed
because Albert, pleading a headache, begged off from attendance at
the reception to the Reverend Mr. Kendall. Either, or both ladies
would have been only too willing to remain at home and nurse the
sufferer through his attack, but he refused to permit the sacrifice
on their part. After they had gone his headache disappeared and,
supplied with an abundance of paper, pens and ink, he sat down at
the table in his room to invoke the Muse. The invocation lasted
until three A. M. At that hour, with a genuine headache, but a
sense of triumph which conquered pain, Albert climbed into bed.
Upon the table lay a poem, a six stanza poem, having these words at
TO MY LADY'S SPRING HAT
By A. M. Speranza.
The following forenoon he posted that poem to the editor of The
Cape Cod Item. And three weeks later it appeared in the pages of
that journal. Of course there was no pecuniary recompense for its
author, and the fact was indisputable that the Item was generally
only too glad to publish contributions which helped to fill its
columns. But, nevertheless, Albert Speranza had written a poem and
that poem had been published.
It was Rachel who first discovered "To My Lady's Spring Hat" in the
Item three weeks later. She came rushing into the sitting room
brandishing the paper.
"My soul! My soul! My soul!" she cried.
Olive, sitting sewing by the window, was, naturally, somewhat
startled. "Mercy on us, Rachel!" she exclaimed. "What IS it?"
"Look!" cried the housekeeper, pointing to the contribution in the
"Poets' Corner" as Queen Isabella may have pointed at the evidence
of her proteges discovery of a new world. "LOOK!"
Mrs. Snow looked, read the verses to herself, and then aloud.
"Why, I declare, they're real sort of pretty, ain't they?" she
exclaimed, in astonished admiration.
"Pretty! They're perfectly elegant! And right here in the paper
for all hands to see. Ain't you PROUD of him, Mrs. Snow?"
Olive had been growing more and more proud of her handsome grandson
ever since his arrival. She was prouder still now and said so.
Rachel nodded, triumphantly.
"He'll be a Robert Penfold afore he dies, or I miss MY guess!" she
She showed it to feminine acquaintances all over town, and Olive,
when callers came, took pains to see that a copy of the Item,
folded with the "Poets' Corner" uppermost, lay on the center table.
Customers, dropping in at the office, occasionally mentioned the
poem to its author.
"See you had a piece in the Item, Al," was their usual way of
referring to it. "Pretty cute piece 'twas, too, seemed to me.
Say, that girl of yours must have SOME spring bunnit. Ho, ho!"
Issachar deigned to express approval, approval qualified with
discerning criticism of course, but approval nevertheless.
"Pretty good piece, Al," he observed. "Pretty good. Glad to see
you done so well. Course you made one little mistake, but 'twan't
a very big one. That part where you said-- What was it, now?
Where'd I put that piece of poetry? Oh, yes, here 'tis! Where you
'It floats upon her golden curls
As froth upon the wave.'
Now of course nothin'--a hat or nothin' else--is goin' to float on
top of a person's head. Froth floatin', that's all right, you
understand; but even if you took froth right out of the water and
slapped it up onto anybody's hair 'twouldn't FLOAT up there. If
'It SETS up onto her golden curls,
Same as froth sets on top of a wave.'
that would have been all right and true. But there, don't feel bad
about it. It's only a little mistake, same as anybody's liable to
make. Nine persons out of ten wouldn't have noticed it. I'm extry
partic'lar, I presume likely. I'm findin' mistakes like that all
Laban's comment was less critical, perhaps, but more reserved.
"It's pretty good, Al," he said. "Yes--er--yes, sir, it's pretty
good. It ain't all new, there's some of it that's been written
before, but I rather guess that might have been said about
Shakespeare's poetry when he fust commenced. It's pretty good, Al.
Yes--yes, yes. It is so."
Albert was inclined to resent the qualified strain in the
bookkeeper's praise. He was tempted to be sarcastic.
"Well," he observed, "of course you've read so much real poetry
that you ought to know."
Laban nodded, slowly. "I've read a good deal," he said quietly.
"Readin' is one of the few things I ain't made a failure of in this
life. Um-hm. One of the few. Yes yes--yes."
He dipped his pen in the inkwell and carefully made an entry in the
ledger. His assistant felt a sudden pang of compunction.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Keeler," he said. "That was pretty fresh
of me. I'm sorry."
Laban looked up in mild surprise. "Sorry?" he repeated. "What
for? . . . Oh, that's all right, Al, that's all right. Lord knows
I'm the last one on earth who'd ought to criticize anybody. All I
had in mind in sayin' what I did was to--well, to kind of keep you
from bein' too well satisfied and not try harder on the next one.
It don't pay to be too well satisfied. . . . Years ago, I can
remember, _I_ was pretty well satisfied--with myself and my work.
Sounds like a joke, I know, but 'twas so. . . . Well, I've had a
nice long chance to get over it. Um-hm. Yes--yes. So I have, so
Only Captain Zelotes at first said nothing about the poem. He read
it, his wife saw to that, but his comment even to her was a non-
"But don't you think it's real sort of pretty, Zelotes?" she asked.
The captain grunted again. "Why, I guess likely 'tis if you say
so, Mother. I don't know much about such things."
"But everybody says it is."
"Want to know! Well, then 'twon't make much difference whether I
say it or not."
"But ain't you goin' to say a word to Albert about it, Zelotes?"
"Humph! I don't know's I know what to say."
"Why, say you like it."
"Ye-es, and if I do he'll keep on writin' more. That's exactly
what I don't want him to do. Come now, Mother, be sensible. This
piece of his may be good or it may not, _I_ wouldn't undertake to
say. But this I do know: I don't want the boy to spend his time
writin' poetry slush for that 'Poets' Corner.' Letitia Makepeace
did that--she had a piece in there about every week--and she died
in the Taunton asylum."
"But, Zelotes, it wasn't her poetry got her into the asylum."
"Wan't it? Well, she was in the poorhouse afore that. I don't
know whether 'twas her poetryin' that got her in there, but I know
darned well it didn't get her out."
"But ain't you goin' to say one word? 'Twould encourage him so."
"Good Lord! We don't want to encourage him, do we? If he was
takin' to thievin' you wouldn't encourage him in that, would you?"
"Thievin'! Zelotes Snow, you don't mean to say you compare a poet
to a THIEF!"
The captain grinned. "No-o, Mother," he observed drily. "Sometimes
a thief can manage to earn a livin' at his job. But there, there,
don't feel bad. I'll say somethin' to Al, long's you think I ought
The something was not much, and yet Captain Zelotes really meant it
to be kindly and to sound like praise. But praising a thing of
which you have precious little understanding and with which you
have absolutely no sympathy is a hard job.
"See you had a piece in the Item this week, Al," observed the
"Why--yes, sir," said Albert.
"Um-hm. I read it. I don't know much about such things, but they
tell me it is pretty good."
"Thank you, sir."
"Eh? Oh, you're welcome."
That was all. Perhaps considering its source it was a good deal,
but Albert was not of the age where such considerations are likely
to be made.
Helen's praise was warm and enthusiastic. "I knew you could do it
if you only would," she declared. "And oh, I'm SO glad you did!
Now you must keep on trying."
That bit of advice was quite superfluous. Young Speranza having
sampled the sublime intoxication of seeing himself in print, was
not ready to sober off yet a while. He continued to bombard the
Item with verses. They were invariably accepted, but when he sent
to a New York magazine a poem which he considered a gem, the
promptness with which it was returned staggered his conceit and was
in that respect a good thing for him.
However, he kept on trying. Helen would not have permitted him to
give up even if he had wished. She was quite as much interested in
his literary aspirations as he was himself and her encouragement
was a great help to him. After months of repeated trial and
repeated rejection he opened an envelope bearing the name of a
fairly well-known periodical to find therein a kindly note stating
that his poem, "Sea Spaces" had been accepted. And a week later
came a check for ten dollars. That was a day of days. Incidentally
it was the day of a trial balance in the office and the assistant
bookkeeper's additions and multiplications contained no less than
four ghastly errors.
The next afternoon there was an interview in the back office.
Captain Zelotes and his grandson were the participants. The
subject discussed was "Business versus Poetry," and there was a
marked difference of opinion. Albert had proclaimed his triumph at
home, of course, had exhibited his check, had been the recipient of
hugs and praises from his grandmother and had listened to paeans
and hallelujahs from Mrs. Ellis. When he hurried around to the
parsonage after supper, Helen had been excited and delighted at the
good news. Albert had been patted on the back quite as much as was
good for a young man whose bump of self-esteem was not inclined
toward under-development. When he entered the private office of Z.
Snow and Co. in answer to his grandfather's summons, he did so
light-heartedly, triumphantly, with self-approval written large
But though he came like a conquering hero, he was not received like
one. Captain Zelotes sat at his desk, the copy of the Boston
morning paper which he had been reading sticking out of the waste
basket into which it had been savagely jammed a half hour before.
The news had not been to the captain's liking. These were the
September days of 1914; the German Kaiser was marching forward "mit
Gott" through Belgium, and it began to look as if he could not be
stopped short of Paris. Consequently, Captain Zelotes, his
sympathies from the first with England and the Allies, was not
happy in his newspaper reading.
Albert entered, head erect and eyes shining. If Gertie Kendrick
could have seen him then she would have fallen down and worshiped.
His grandfather looked at him in silence for a moment, tapping his
desk with the stump of a pencil. Albert, too, was silent; he was
already thinking of another poem with which to dazzle the world,
and his head was among the rosy clouds.
"Sit down, Al," said Captain Zelotes shortly.
Albert reluctantly descended to earth and took the battered
armchair standing beside the desk. The captain tapped with his
pencil upon the figure-covered sheet of paper before him. Then he
"Al, you've been here three years come next December, ain't you?"
"Why--yes, sir, I believe I have."
"Um-hm, you have. And for the heft of that time you've been in
"Yes. And Labe Keeler and I have been doin' our best to make a
business man out of you. You understand we have, don't you?"
Albert looked puzzled and a little uneasy. Into his roseate dreams
was just beginning to filter the idea that his grandfather's tone
and manner were peculiar.
"Why, yes, sir, of course I understand it," he replied.
"Well, I asked you because I wasn't quite sure whether you did or
not. Can you guess what this is I've got on my desk here?"
He tapped the figure-covered sheet of paper once more. Before
Albert could speak the captain answered his own question.
"I'll tell you what it is," he went on. "It's one of the latest
samples of your smartness as a business man. I presume likely you
know that Laban worked here in this office until three o'clock this
mornin', didn't you?"
Albert did not know it. Mr. Keeler had told him nothing of the
"Why, no," he replied. "Did he? What for?"
"Ye-es, he did. And what for? Why, just to find out what was the
matter with his trial balance, that's all. When one of Labe's
trial balances starts out for snug harbor and ends up on a reef
with six foot of water in her hold, naturally Labe wants to get her
afloat and pumped dry as quick as possible. He ain't used to it,
for one thing, and it makes him nervous."
Albert's uneasiness grew. When his grandfather's speech became
sarcastic and nautical, the young man had usually found that there
was trouble coming for somebody.
"I--I'm sorry Laban had to stay so late," he stammered. "I should
have been glad to stay and help him, but he didn't ask me."
"No-o. Well, it may possibly be that he cal'lated he was carryin'
about all your help that the craft would stand, as 'twas. Any more
might sink her. See here, young feller--" Captain Zelotes dropped
his quiet sarcasm and spoke sharp and brisk: "See here," he said,
"do you realize that this sheet of paper I've got here is what
stands for a day's work done by you yesterday? And on this sheet
there was no less than four silly mistakes that a child ten years
old hadn't ought to make, that an able-bodied idiot hadn't ought to
make. But YOU made 'em, and they kept Labe Keeler here till three
o'clock this mornin'. Now what have you got to say for yourself?"
As a matter of fact, Albert had very little to say, except that he
was sorry, and that his grandfather evidently did not consider
worth the saying. He waved the protestation aside.
"Sorry!" he repeated impatiently. "Of course you're sorry, though
even at that I ain't sure you're sorry enough. Labe was sorry,
too, I don't doubt, when his bedtime went by and he kept runnin'
afoul of one of your mistakes after another. I'm sorry, darned
sorry, to find out that you can make such blunders after three
years on board here under such teachin' as you've had. But bein'
sorry don't help any to speak of. Any fool can be sorry for his
foolishness, but if that's all, it don't help a whole lot. Is
bein' sorry the best excuse you've got to offer? What made you
make the mistakes in the first place?"
Albert's face was darkly red under the lash of his grandfather's
tongue. Captain Zelotes and he had had disagreements and verbal
encounters before, but never since they had been together had the
captain spoken like this. And the young fellow was no longer
seventeen, he was twenty. The flush began to fade from his cheeks
and the pallor which meant the rise of the Speranza temper took its
"What made you make such fool blunders?" repeated the captain.
"You knew better, didn't you?"
"Yes," sullenly, "I suppose I did."
"You know mighty well you did. And as nigh as I can larn from what
I got out of Laban--which wasn't much; I had to pump it out of him
word by word--this ain't the first set of mistakes you've made.
You make 'em right along. If it wasn't for him helpin' you out and
coverin' up your mistakes, this firm would be in hot water with its
customers two-thirds of the time and the books would be fust-rate
as a puzzle, somethin' to use for a guessin' match, but plaguey
little good as straight accounts of a goin' concern. Now what
makes you act this way? Eh? What makes you?"
"Oh, I don't know. See here, Grandfather--"
"Hold on a minute. You don't know, eh? Well, I know. It ain't
because you ain't smart enough to keep a set of books and keep 'em
well. I don't expect you to be a Labe Keeler; there ain't many
bookkeepers like him on this earth. But I do know you're smart
enough to keep my books and keep 'em as they'd ought to be, if you
want to keep 'em. The trouble with you is that you don't want to.
You've got too much of your good-for-nothin--" Captain Lote pulled
up short, cleared his throat, and went on: "You've got too much
'poet' in you," he declared, "that's what's the matter."
Albert leaned forward. "That wasn't what you were going to say,"
he said quickly. "You were going to say that I had too much of my
father in me."
It was the captain's turn to redden. "Eh?" he stammered. "Why,
I--I-- How do you know what I was goin' to say?"
"Because I do. You say it all the time. Or, if you don't say it,
you look it. There is hardly a day that I don't catch you looking
at me as if you were expecting me to commit murder or do some
outrageous thing or other. And I know, too, that it is all because
I'm my father's son. Well, that's all right; feel that way about
me if you want to, I can't help it."
"Here, here, Al! Hold on! Don't--"
"I won't hold on. And I tell you this: I hate this work here. You
say I don't want to keep books. Well, I don't. I'm sorry I made
the errors yesterday and put Keeler to so much trouble, but I'll
probably make more. No," with a sudden outburst of determination,
"I won't make any more. I won't, because I'm not going to keep
books any more. I'm through."
Captain Zelotes leaned back in his chair.
"You're what?" he asked slowly.
"I'm through. I'll never work in this office another day. I'm
The captain's brows drew together as he stared steadily at his
grandson. He slowly tugged at his beard.
"Humph!" he grunted, after a moment. "So you're through, eh?
Goin' to quit and go somewheres else, you mean?"
"Um-hm. I see. Where are you goin' to go?"
"I don't know. But I'm not going to make a fool of myself at this
job any longer. I can't keep books, and I won't keep them. I hate
business. I'm no good at it. And I won't stay here."
"I see. I see. Well, if you won't keep on in business, what will
you do for a livin'? Write poetry?"
"Um-m. Be kind of slim livin', won't it? You've been writin'
poetry for about a year and a half, as I recollect, and so far
you've made ten dollars."
"That's all right. If I don't make it I may starve, as you are
always saying that writers do. But, starve or not, I shan't ask
YOU to take care of me."
"I've taken care of you for three years or so."
"Yes. But you did it because--because-- Well, I don't know why
you did, exactly, but you won't have to do it any longer. I'm
The captain still stared steadily, and what he saw in the dark eyes
which flashed defiance back at him seemed to trouble him a little.
His tugs at his beard became more strenuous.
"Humph!" he muttered. "Humph! . . . Well, Al, of course I can't
make you stay by main force. Perhaps I could--you ain't of age
yet--but I shan't. And you want to quit the ship altogether, do
"If you mean this office--yes, I do."
"I see, I see. Want to quit South Harniss and your grandmother--
and Rachel--and Labe--and Helen--and all the rest of 'em?"
"Not particularly. But I shall have to, of course."
"Yes. . . . Um-hm. . . . Yes. Have you thought how your
grandmother's liable to feel when she hears you are goin' to clear
out and leave her?"
Albert had not thought in that way, but he did now. His tone was a
trifle less combative as he answered.
"She'll be sorry at first, I suppose," he said, "but she'll get
"Um-hm. Maybe she will. You can get over 'most anything in time--
'MOST anything. Well, and how about me? How do you think I'll
Albert's chin lifted. "You!" he exclaimed. "Why, you'll be mighty
glad of it."
Captain Zelotes picked up the pencil stump and twirled it in his
fingers. "Shall I?" he asked. "You think I will, do you?"
"Of course you will. You don't like me, and never did."
"So I've heard you say. Well, boy, don't you cal'late I like you
at least as much as you like me?"
"No. What do you mean? I like you well enough. That is, I should
if you gave me half a chance. But you don't do it. You hate me
because my father--"
The captain interrupted. His big palm struck the desk.
"DON'T say that again!" he commanded. "Look here, if I hated you
do you suppose I'd be talkin' to you like this? If I hated you do
you cal'late I'd argue when you gave me notice? Not by a jugful!
No man ever came to me and said he was goin' to quit and had me beg
him to stay. If we was at sea he stayed until we made port; then
he WENT, and he didn't hang around waitin' for a boat to take him
ashore neither. I don't hate you, son. I'd ask nothin' better
than a chance to like you, but you won't give it to me."
Albert's eyes and mouth opened.
"_I_ won't give YOU a chance?" he repeated.
"Sartin. DO you give me one? I ask you to keep these books of
mine. You could keep 'em A Number One. You're smart enough to do
it. But you won't. You let 'em go to thunder and waste your time
makin' up fool poetry and such stuff."
"But I like writing, and I don't like keeping books."
"Keepin' books is a part of l'arnin' the business, and business is
the way you're goin' to get your livin' by and by."
"No, it isn't. I am going to be a writer."
"Now DON'T say that silly thing again! I don't want to hear it."
"I shall say it because it is true."
"Look here, boy: When I tell you or anybody else in this office to
do or not to do a thing, I expect 'em to obey orders. And I tell
you not to talk any more of that foolishness about bein' a writer.
"Yes, of course I understand."
"All right, then, that much is settled. . . . Here! Where are you
Albert had turned and was on his way out of the office. He stopped
and answered over his shoulder, "I'm going home," he said.
"Goin' HOME? Why, you came from home not more than an hour and a
half ago! What are you goin' there again now for?"
"To pack up my things."
"To pack up your things! To pack up-- Humph! So you really mean
it! You're really goin' to quit me like this? And your grandma,
The young man felt a sudden pang of compunction, a twinge of
"Grandfather," he said, "I'm sorry. I--"
But the change in his attitude and tone came too late. Captain
Lote's temper was boiling now, contradiction was its worst
"Goin' to quit!" he sneered. "Goin' to quit because you don't like
to work. All right, quit then! Go ahead! I've done all I can to
make a man of you. Go to the devil in your own way."
"Go ahead! _I_ can't stop you. It's in your breed, I cal'late."
That was sufficient. Albert strode out of the private office, head
erect. Captain Zelotes rose and slammed the door after his
At ten that evening Albert was in his room, sitting in a chair by
the window, gloomily looking out. The packing, most of it, had
been done. He had not, as he told his grandfather he intended
doing, left the office immediately and come straight home to pack.
As he emerged from the inner office after the stormy interview with
the captain he found Laban Keeler hard at work upon the books. The
sight of the little man, so patiently and cheerfully pegging away,
brought another twinge of conscience to the assistant bookkeeper.
Laban had been such a brick in all their relationships. It must
have been a sore trial to his particular, business-like soul, those
errors in the trial balance. Yet he had not found fault nor
complained. Captain Zelotes himself had said that every item
concerning his grandson's mistakes and blunders had been dragged
from Mr. Keeler much against the latter's will. Somehow Albert
could not bear to go off and leave him at once. He would stay and
finish his day's work, for Labe Keeler's sake.
So stay he did and when Captain Zelotes later came out of his
private office and found him there neither of them spoke. At home,
during supper, nothing was said concerning the quarrel of the
afternoon. Yet Albert was as determined to leave as ever, and the
Captain, judging by the expression of his face, was just as
determined to do nothing more to prevent him. After supper the
young man went to his room and began the packing. His grandfather
went out, an unusual proceeding for him, saying that he guessed he
would go down street for a spell.
Now Albert, as he sat there by the window, was gloomy enough. The
wind, howling and wailing about the gables of the old house, was
not an aid to cheerfulness and he needed every aid. He had sworn
to go away, he was going away--but where should he go? He had a
little money put by, not much but a little, which he had been
saving for quite another purpose. This would take him a little
way, would pay his bills for a short time, but after that-- Well,
after that he could earn more. With the optimism of youth and the
serene self-confidence which was natural to him he was sure of
succeeding sooner or later. It was not the dread of failure and
privation which troubled him. The weight which was pressing upon
his spirit was not the fear of what might happen to him.
There was a rap upon the door. Then a voice, the housekeeper's
voice, whispered through the crack.
"It's me, Al," whispered Mrs. Ellis. "You ain't in bed yet, are
you? I'd like to talk with you a minute or two, if I might."
He was not anxious to talk to her or anyone else just then, but he
told her to come in. She entered on tiptoe, with the mysterious
air of a conspirator, and shut the door carefully after her.
"May I set down just a minute?" she asked. "I can generally talk
He pulled forward the ancient rocker with the rush seat. The
cross-stitch "tidy" on the back was his mother's handiwork, she had
made it when she was fifteen. Rachel sat down in the rocker.
"Al" she began, still in the same mysterious whisper, "I know all
He looked at her. "All about what?" he asked.
"About the trouble you and Cap'n Lote had this afternoon. I know
you're plannin' to leave us all and go away somewheres and that he
told you to go, and all that. I know what you've been doin' up
here to-night. Fur's that goes," she added, with a little catch in
her breath and a wave of her hand toward the open trunk and
suitcase upon the floor, "I wouldn't need to know, I could SEE."
Albert was surprised and confused. He had supposed the whole
affair to be, so far, a secret between himself and his grandfather.
"You know?" he stammered. "You-- How did you know?"
"Laban told me. Labe came hurryin' over here just after supper and
told me the whole thing. He's awful upset about it, Laban is. He
thinks almost as much of you as he does of Cap'n Lote or--or me,"
with an apologetic little smile.
Albert was astonished and troubled. "How did Labe know about it?"
"He heard it all. He couldn't help hearin'."
"But he couldn't have heard. The door to the private office was
"Yes, but the window at the top--the transom one, you know--was
wide open. You and your grandpa never thought of that, I guess,
and Laban couldn't hop up off his stool and shut it without givin'
it away that he'd been hearin'. So he had to just set and listen
and I know how he hated doin' that. Laban Keeler ain't the
listenin' kind. One thing about it all is a mercy," she added,
fervently. "It's the Lord's own mercy that that Issy Price wasn't
where HE could hear it, too. If Issy heard it you might as well
paint it up on the town-hall fence; all creation and his wife
wouldn't larn it any sooner."
Albert drew a long breath. "Well," he said, after a moment, "I'm
sorry Labe heard, but I don't suppose it makes much difference.
Everyone will know all about it in a day or two . . . I'm going."
Rachel leaned forward.
"No, you ain't, Al," she said.
"I'm not? Indeed I am! Why, what do you mean?"
"I mean just what I say. You ain't goin'. You're goin' to stay
right here. At least I hope you are, and I THINK you are. . . .
Oh, I know," she added, quickly, "what you are goin' to say.
You're goin' to tell me that your grandpa is down on you on account
of your father, and that you don't like bookkeepin', and that you
want to write poetry and--and such. You'll say all that, and maybe
it's all true, but whether 'tis or not ain't the point at all just
now. The real point is that you're Janie Snow's son and your
grandpa's Cap'n Lote Snow and your grandma's Olive Snow and there
ain't goin' to be another smash-up in this family if I can help it.
I've been through one and one's enough. Albert, didn't you promise
me that Sunday forenoon three years ago when I came into the
settin'-room and we got talkin' about books and Robert Penfold and
everything--didn't you promise me then that when things between you
and your grandpa got kind of--of snarled up and full of knots you'd
come to me with 'em and we'd see if we couldn't straighten 'em out
together? Didn't you promise me that, Albert?"
Albert remembered the conversation to which she referred. As he
remembered it, however, he had not made any definite promise.
"You asked me to talk them over with you, Rachel," he admitted. "I
think that's about as far as it went."
"Well, maybe so, but now I ask you again. Will you talk this over
with me, Albert? Will you tell me every bit all about it, for my
sake? And for your grandma's sake. . . . Yes, more'n that, for
your mother's sake, Albert; she was pretty nigh like my own sister,
Jane Snow was. Different as night from day of course, she was
pretty and educated and all that and I was just the same then as I
am now, but we did think a lot of each other, Albert. Tell me the
whole story, won't you, please. Just what Cap'n Lote said and what
you said and what you plan to do--and all? Please, Albert."
There were tears in her eyes. He had always liked her, but it was
a liking with a trace of condescension in it. She was peculiar,
her "sympathetic attacks" were funny, and she and Laban together
were an odd pair. Now he saw her in a new light and he felt a
sudden rush of real affection for her. And with this feeling, and
inspired also by his loneliness, came the impulse to comply with
her request, to tell her all his troubles.
He began slowly at first, but as he went on the words came quicker.
She listened eagerly, nodding occasionally, but saying nothing.
When he had finished she nodded again.
"I see," she said. "'Twas almost what Laban said and about what he
and I expected. Well, Albert, I ain't goin' to be the one to blame
you, not very much anyhow. I don't see as you are to blame; you
can't help the way you're made. But your grandfather can't help
bein' made his way, either. He can't see with your spectacles and
you can't see with his."
He stirred rebelliously. "Then we had better go our own ways, I
should say," he muttered.
"No, you hadn't. That's just what you mustn't do, not now, anyhow.
As I said before, there's been enough of all hands goin' their own
ways in this family and look what came of it."
"But what do you expect me to do? I will not give up every plan
I've made and my chance in the world just because he is too
stubborn and cranky to understand them. I will NOT do it."
"I don't want you to. But I don't want you to upset the whole
kettle just because the steam has scalded your fingers. I don't
want you to go off and leave your grandma to break her heart a
second time and your grandpa to give up all his plans and hopes
that he's been makin' about you."
"Plans about me? He making plans about me? What sort of plans?"
"All sorts. Oh, he don't say much about 'em, of course; that ain't
his way. But from things he's let drop I know he has hoped to take
you in with him as a partner one of these days, and to leave you
the business after he's gone."
"No, it ain't nonsense. It's the one big dream of Cap'n Lote's
life. That Z. Snow and Co. business is his pet child, as you might
say. He built it up, he and Labe together, and when he figgered to
take you aboard with him 'twas SOME chance for you, 'cordin' to his
lookout. Now you can't hardly blame him for bein' disappointed
when you chuck that chance away and take to writin' poetry pieces,
"But--but--why, confound it, Rachel, you don't understand!"
"Yes, I do, but your grandpa don't. And you don't understand
him. . . . Oh, Albert, DON'T be as stubborn as he is, as your
mother was--the Lord and she forgive me for sayin' it. She was
partly right about marryin' your pa and Cap'n Lote was partly right,
too. If they had met half way and put the two 'partlys' together the
whole thing might have been right in the end. As 'twas, 'twas all
wrong. Don't, don't, DON'T, Albert, be as stubborn as that. For
their sakes, Al,--yes, and for my sake, for I'm one of your family,
too, or seems as if I was--don't."
She hastily wiped her eyes with her apron. He, too was greatly
"Don't cry, Rachel," he muttered, hurriedly. "Please don't. . . .
I didn't know you felt this way. I didn't know anybody did. I
don't want to make trouble in the family--any more trouble.
Grandmother has been awfully good to me; so, too, has Grandfather,
I suppose, in his way. But--oh, what am I going to do? I can't
stay in that office all my life. I'm not good at business. I
don't like it. I can't give up--"
"No, no, course you mustn't. I don't want you to give up."
"Then what do you want me to do?"
"I want you to go to your grandpa and talk to him once more. Not
givin' up your plans altogether but not forcin' him to give up his
either, not right away. Tell him you realize he wants you to go on
with Z. Snow and Company and that you will--for a while--"
"For a while, I said; three or four years, say. You won't be so
dreadful old then, not exactly what you'd call a Methusalem. Tell
him you'll do that and on his side he must let you write as much as
you please, provided you don't let the writin' interfere with the
Z. Snow and Co. work. Then, at the end of the three or four years,
if you still feel the same as you do now, you can tackle your
poetry for keeps and he and you'll still be friends. Tell him
that, Albert, and see what he says. . . . Will you?"
Albert took some moments to consider. At length he said: "If I
did I doubt if he would listen."
"Oh, yes he would. He'd more than listen, I'm pretty sartin. I
think he'd agree."
"Yes, I do. You see," with a smile, "while I've been talkin' to
you there's been somebody else talkin' to him. . . . There, there!
don't you ask any questions. I promised not to tell anybody and if
I ain't exactly broke that promise, I've sprained its ankle, I'm
afraid. Good night, Albert, and thank you ever and ever so much
for listenin' so long without once tellin' me to mind my own
"Good night, Rachel. . . . And thank you for taking so much
interest in my affairs. You're an awfully good friend, I can see
"Don't--don't talk that way. And you WILL have that talk with your
"Yes, I will."
"Oh, I'm SO glad! There! Good night. I come pretty nigh kissin'
you then and for a woman that's been engaged to be married for
upwards of eighteen years that's a nice way to act, ain't it! Good
night, good night."
She hurried out of the room. Albert sat down again in his chair by
the window. He had promised to go to his grandfather and talk to
him. As he sat there, thinking of the coming interview, he
realized more and more that the keeping of that promise was likely
to be no easy matter. He must begin the talk, he must break the
ice--and how should he break it? Timid and roundabout approaches
would be of little use; unless his grandfather's state of mind had
changed remarkably since their parting in the Z. Snow and Co.
office they and their motive would be misunderstood. No, the only
way to break the ice was to break it, to plunge immediately into
the deepest part of the subject. It promised to be a chilly
plunge. He shivered at the prospect.
A half hour later he heard the door of the hall open and shut and
knew that Captain Zelotes had returned. Rising, he descended the
stairs. He descended slowly. Just as he reached the foot of the
narrow flight Captain Zelotes entered the hall from the dining-room
and turned toward him. Both were surprised at the meeting. Albert
"Good evening, Grandfather," he stammered. "I--I was just coming
down to see you. Were you going to bed?"
Captain Lote shook his head. "No-o," he said, slowly, "not
"Do you mind waiting a minute? I have a few things--I have
something to say to you and--and I guess I shall sleep better if I
say it to-night. I--I won't keep you long."
The captain regarded him intently for an instant, then he turned
and led the way to the dining-room.
"Go ahead," he ordered, laconically. Albert squared his shoulders,
preparatory to the plunge.
"Grandfather," he began, "first of all I want to tell you I am
sorry for--for some of the things I said this afternoon."
He had rehearsed this opening speech over and over again, but in
spite of the rehearsals it was dreadfully hard to make. If his
grandfather had helped him even a little it might have been easier,
but the captain merely stood there, expressionless, saying nothing,
waiting for him to continue.
Albert swallowed, clenched his fists, and took a new start.
"Of course," he began, "I am sorry for the mistakes I made in my
bookkeeping, but that I have told you before. Now--now I want to
say I am sorry for being so--well, so pig-headed about the rest of
it. I realize that you have been mighty kind to me and that I owe
you about everything that I've got in this world."
He paused again. It had seemed to him that Captain Zelotes was
about to speak. However, he did not, so the young man stumbled on.
"And--and I realize, too," he said, "that you have, I guess, been
trying to give me a real start in business, the start you think I
ought to have."
The captain nodded slowly. "That was my idea in startin' you," he
"Yes--and fact that I haven't done more with the chance is because
I'm made that way, I guess. But I do want to--yes, and I MEAN to
try to succeed at writing poetry or stories or plays or something.
I like that and I mean to give it a trial. And so--and so, you
see, I've been thinking our talk over and I've concluded that
perhaps you may be right, maybe I'm not old enough to know what I
really am fitted for, and yet perhaps _I_ may be partly right, too.
I--I've been thinking that perhaps some sort of--of--"
"Well, of half-way arrangement--some sort of--of compromise, you
know, might be arranged. I might agree to stay in the office and
do my very best with bookkeeping and business for--well, say, three
years or so. During that time I should be trying to write of
course, but I would only do that sort of writing evenings or on
Saturdays and holidays. It shouldn't interfere with your work nor
be done in the time you pay me for. And at the end of the three or
He paused again. This time the pause was longer than ever.
Captain Lote broke the silence. His big right hand had wandered
upward and was tugging at his beard.
"Well? . . . And then?" he asked.
"Why, then--if--if-- Well, then we could see. If business seemed
to be where I was most likely to succeed we'd call it settled and I
would stay with Z. Snow and Co. If poetry-making or--or--literature
seemed more likely to be the job I was fitted for, that would be the
job I'd take. You--you see, don't you, Grandfather?"
The captain's beard-pulling continued. He was no longer looking
his grandson straight in the eye. His gaze was fixed upon the
braided mat at his feet and he answered without looking up.
"Ye-es," he drawled, "I cal'late I see. Well, was that all you had
"No-o, not quite. I--I wanted to say that which ever way it turned
out, I--I hoped we--you and I, you know--would agree to be--to be
good-natured about it and--and friends just the same. I--I--
Well, there! That's all, I guess. I haven't put it very well, I'm
afraid, but--but what do you think about it, Grandfather?"
And now Captain Zelotes did look up. The old twinkle was in his
eye. His first remark was a question and that question was rather
"Al," he asked, "Al, who's been talkin' to you?"
The blood rushed to his grandson's face. "Talking to me?" he
stammered. "Why--why, what do you mean?"
"I mean just that. You didn't think out this scheme all by
yourself. Somebody's been talkin' to you and puttin' you up to it.
"Why--why, Grandfather, I--"
"Why-- Well, yes, someone has been talking to me, but the whole
idea isn't theirs. I WAS sorry for speaking to you as I did and
sorry to think of leaving you and grandmother. I--I was sitting up
there in my room and feeling blue and mean enough and--and--"
"And then Rachel came aboard and gave you your sailin' orders; eh?"
Albert gasped. "For heaven's sake how did you know that?" he
demanded. "She-- Why, she must have told you, after all! But she
"Hold on, boy, hold on!" Captain Lote chuckled quietly. "No," he
said, "Rachel didn't tell me; I guessed she was the one. And it
didn't take a Solomon in all his glory to guess it, neither. Labe
Keeler's been talkin' to ME, and when you come down here and began
proposin' the same scheme that I was just about headin' up to your
room with to propose to you, then--well, then the average whole-
witted person wouldn't need more'n one guess. It couldn't be Labe,
'cause he'd been whisperin' in MY ear, so it must have been the
other partner in the firm. That's all the miracle there is to it."
Albert's brain struggled with the situation. "I see," he said,
after a moment. "She hinted that someone had been talking to you
along the same line. Yes, and she was so sure you would agree. I
might have known it was Laban."
"Um-hm, so you might. . . . Well, there have been times when if a
man had talked to me as Labe did to-night I'd have knocked him
down, or told him to go to--um--well, the tropics--told him to mind
his own business, at least. But Labe is Labe, and besides MY
conscience was plaguin' me a little mite, maybe . . . maybe."
The young man shook his head. "They must have talked it over,
those two, and agreed that one should talk to you and the other to
me. By George, I wonder they had the nerve. It wasn't their
"Not a darn bit."
"Yet--yet I--I'm awfully glad she said it to me. I--I needed it,
"Maybe you did, son. . . . And--humph--well, maybe I needed it,
too. . . . Yes, I know that's consider'ble for me to say," he
Albert was still thinking of Laban and Rachel.
"They're queer people," he mused. "When I first met them I thought
they were about the funniest pair I ever saw. But--but now I can't
help liking them and--and-- Say, Grandfather, they must think a
lot of your--of our family."
"Cal'late they do, son. . . . Well, boy, we've had our sermon, you
and me, what shall we do? Willin' to sign for the five years trial
cruise if I will, are you?"
Albert couldn't help smiling. "It was three years Rachel proposed,
not five," he said.
"Was, eh? Suppose we split the difference and make it four?
Willin' to try that?"
"Agreement bein' that you shall stick close to Z. Snow and Co.
durin' work hours and write as much poetry as you darned please
other times, neither side to interfere with those arrangements?
"Good! Shall we shake hands on it?"
They shook, solemnly. Captain Lote was the first to speak after
ratification of the contract.
"There, now I cal'late I'll go aloft and turn in," he observed.
Then he added, with a little hesitation, "Say, Al, maybe we'd
better not trouble your grandma about all this fool business--the
row this afternoon and all. 'Twould only worry her and--" he
paused, looked embarrassed, cleared his throat, and said, "to tell
you the truth, I'm kind of ashamed of my part---er--er--that is,
some of it."
His grandson was very much astonished. It was not often that
Captain Zelotes Snow admitted having been in the wrong. He blurted
out the question he had been dying to ask.
"Grandfather," he queried, "had you--did you really mean what you
said about starting to come to my room and--and propose this scheme
of ours--I mean of Rachel's and Labe's--to me?"
"Eh? . . . Ye-es--yes. I was on my way up there when I met you
"Well, Grandfather, I--I--"
"That's all right, boy, that's all right. Don't let's talk any
more about it."
"We won't. And--and-- But, Grandfather, I just want you to know
that I guess I understand things a little better than I did, and--
and when my father--"
The captain's heavy hand descended upon his shoulder.
"Heave short, Al!" he commanded. "I've been doin' consider'ble
thinkin' since Labe finished his--er--discourse and pronounced the
benediction, and I've come to a pretty definite conclusion on one
matter. I've concluded that you and I had better cut out all the
bygones from this new arrangement of ours. We won't have fathers
or--or--elopements--or past-and-done-with disapp'intments in it.
This new deal--this four year trial v'yage of ours--will be just
for Albert Speranza and Zelotes Snow, and no others need apply. . . .
Eh? . . . Well, good night, Al."
So the game under the "new deal" began. At first it was much
easier than the old. And, as a matter of fact, it was never as
hard as before. The heart to heart talk between Captain Zelotes
and his grandson had given each a glimpse of the other's inner
self, a look from the other's point of view, and thereafter it was
easier to make allowances. But the necessity for the making of
those allowances was still there and would continue to be there.
At first Albert made almost no mistakes in his bookkeeping, was
almost painfully careful. Then the carefulness relaxed, as it was
bound to do, and some mistakes occurred. Captain Lote found little
fault, but at times he could not help showing some disappointment.
Then his grandson would set his teeth and buckle down to painstaking
effort again. He was resolved to live up to the very letter of the
In his spare time he continued to write and occasionally he sold
something. Whenever he did so there was great rejoicing among the
feminine members of the Snow household; his grandmother and Rachel
Ellis were enraptured. It was amusing to see Captain Zelotes
attempt to join the chorus. He evidently felt that he ought to
praise, or at least that praise was expected from him, but it was
also evident that he did not approve of what he was praising.
"Your grandma says you got rid of another one of your poetry
pieces, Al," he would say. "Pay you for it, did they?"
"Not yet, but they will, I suppose."
"I see, I see. How much, think likely?"
"Oh, I don't know. Ten dollars, perhaps."
"Um-hm . . . I see. . . . Well, that's pretty good, considerin', I
suppose. . . . We did first-rate on that Hyannis school-house
contract, didn't we. Nigh's I can figger it we cleared over
fourteen hundred and eighty dollars on that."
He invariably followed any reference to the profit from the sale of
verses by the casual mention of a much larger sum derived from the
sale of lumber or hardware. This was so noticeable that Laban
Keeler was impelled to speak of it.
"The old man don't want you to forget that you can get more for
hard pine than you can for soft sonnets, sellin' 'em both by the
foot," observed Labe, peering over his spectacles. "More money in
shingles than there is in jingles, he cal'lates. . . . Um. . . .
Yes, yes. . . . Consider'ble more, consider'ble."
Albert smiled, but it astonished him to find that Mr. Keeler knew
what a sonnet was. The little bookkeeper occasionally surprised
him by breaking out unexpectedly in that way.
From the indiscriminate praise at home, or the reluctant praise of
his grandfather, he found relief when he discussed his verses with
Helen Kendall. Her praise was not indiscriminate, in fact
sometimes she did not praise at all, but expressed disapproval.
They had some disagreements, marked disagreements, but it did not
affect their friendship. Albert was a trifle surprised to find
that it did not.
So as the months passed he ground away at the books of Z. Snow and
Company during office hours and at the poetry mill between times.
The seeing of his name in print was no longer a novelty and he
poetized not quite as steadily. Occasionally he attempted prose,
but the two or three short stories of his composition failed to
sell. Helen, however, urged him to try again and keep trying. "I
know you can write a good story and some day you are going to," she
His first real literary success, that which temporarily lifted him
into the outer circle of the limelight of fame, was a poem written
the day following that upon which came the news of the sinking of
the Lusitania. Captain Zelotes came back from the post-office that
morning, a crumpled newspaper in his hand, and upon his face the
look which mutinous foremast hands had seen there just before the
mutiny ended. Laban Keeler was the first to notice the look. "For
the land sakes, Cap'n, what's gone wrong?" he asked. The captain
flung the paper upon the desk. "Read that," he grunted. Labe
slowly spread open the paper; the big black headlines shrieked the
"Good God Almighty!" exclaimed the little bookkeeper. Captain
Zelotes snorted. "He didn't have anything to do with it," he
declared. "The bunch that pulled that off was handled from the
other end of the line. And I wish to thunder I was young enough to
help send 'em back there," he added, savagely.
That evening Albert wrote his poem. The next day he sent it to a
Boston paper. It was published the following morning, spread
across two columns on the front page, and before the month was over
had been copied widely over the country. Within the fortnight its
author received his first request, a bona fida request for verse
from a magazine. Even Captain Lote's praise of the Lusitania poem
was whole-hearted and ungrudging.
That summer was a busy one in South Harniss. There was the usual
amount of summer gaiety, but in addition there were the gatherings
of the various committees for war relief work. Helen belonged to
many of these committees. There were dances and theatrical
performances for the financial benefit of the various causes and
here Albert shone. But he did not shine alone. Helen Kendall was
very popular at the social gatherings, popular not only with the
permanent residents but with the summer youth as well. Albert
noticed this, but he did not notice it so particularly until Issy
Price called his attention to it.
"Say, Al," observed Issy, one afternoon in late August of that
year, "how do YOU like that Raymond young feller?"
Albert looked up absently from the page of the daybook.
"Eh? What?" he asked.
"I say how do YOU like that Eddie Raymond, the Down-at-the-Neck
"Down at the neck? There's nothing the matter with his neck that I
"Who said there was? He LIVES down to the Neck, don't he? I mean
that young Raymond, son of the New York bank man, the ones that's
had the Cahoon house all summer. How do you like him?"
Albert's attention was still divided between the day-book and Mr.
Price. "Oh, I guess he's all right," he answered, carelessly. "I
don't know him very well. Don't bother me, Issy, I'm busy."
Issachar chuckled. "He's busy, too," he observed. "He, he, he!
He's busy trottin' after Helen Kendall. Don't seem to have time
for much else these days. Noticed that, ain't you, Al? He, he!"
Albert had not noticed it. His attention left the day-book
altogether. Issachar chuckled again.
"Noticed it, ain't you, Al?" he repeated. "If you ain't you're the
only one. Everybody's cal'latin' you'll be cut out if you ain't
careful. Folks used to figger you was Helen's steady comp'ny, but
it don't look as much so as it did. He, he! That's why I asked
you how you liked the Raymond one. Eh? How do you, Al? Helen,
SHE seems to like him fust-rate. He, he, he!"
Albert was conscious of a peculiar feeling, partly of irritation at
Issachar, partly something else. Mr. Price crowed delightedly.
"Hi!" he chortled. "Why, Al, your face is gettin' all redded up.
Haw, haw! Blushin', ain't you, Al? Haw, haw, haw! Blushin', by
Albert laid down his pen. He had learned by experience that, in
Issy's case, the maxim of the best defensive being a strong
offensive was absolutely true. He looked with concern about the
"There's a window open somewhere, isn't there, Is?" he inquired.
"There's a dreadful draught anyhow."
"Eh? Draught? I don't feel no draught. Course the window's open;
it's generally open in summer time, ain't it. Haw, haw!"
"There it is again! Where-- Oh, _I_ see! It's your mouth that's
open, Issy. That explains the draught, of course. Yes, yes, of
"Eh? My mouth! Never you mind my mouth. What you've got to think