Part 5 out of 8
"No, no, you didn't tell. I guessed. Now tell me all about her.
She is very lovely. Is she as sweet as she looks?"
He rhapsodized for five minutes. Then all at once he realized what
he was saying and to whom he was saying it. He stopped, stammering,
in the very middle of a glowing eulogium.
"Go on," said Helen reassuringly. But he could not go on, under
the circumstances. Instead he turned very red. As usual, she
divined his thought, noticed his confusion, and took pity on it.
"She must be awfully nice," she said. "I don't wonder you fell in
love with her. I wish I might know her better."
"I wish you might. By and by you must. And she must know you.
Helen, I--I feel so ashamed of--of--"
"Hush, or I shall begin to think you are ashamed because you liked
me--or thought you did."
"But I do like you. Next to Madeline there is no one I like so
much. But, but, you see, it is different."
"Of course it is. And it ought to be. Does her mother--do her
people know of the engagement?"
He hesitated momentarily. "No-o," he admitted, "they don't yet.
She and I have decided to keep it a secret from any one for the
present. I want to get on a little further with my writing, you
know. She is like you in that, Helen--she's awfully fond of poetry
"Especially yours, I'm sure. Tell me about your writing. How are
you getting on?"
So he told her and, until they stood together at the parsonage
gate, Madeline's name was not again mentioned. Then Helen put out
"Good morning, Albert," she said. "I'm glad we have had this talk,
ever so glad."
"By George, so am I! You're a corking friend, Helen. The chap who
does marry you will be awfully lucky."
She smiled slightly. "Perhaps there won't be any such chap," she
said. "I shall always be a schoolmarm, I imagine."
"Indeed you won't," indignantly. "I have too high an opinion of
men for that."
She smiled again, seemed about to speak, and then to change her
mind. An instant later she said,
"I must go in now. But I shall hope to see you again before I go
back to the city. And, after your secret is out and the engagement
is announced, I want to write Madeline, may I?"
"Of course you may. And she'll like you as much as I do."
"Will she? . . . Well, perhaps; we'll hope so."
"Certainly she will. And you won't let my treating you as--as I
have make any difference in our friendship?"
"No. We shall always be friends, I hope. Good-by."
She went into the house. He waited a moment, hoping she might turn
again before entering, but she did not. He walked home, pondering
deeply, his thoughts a curious jumble of relief and dissatisfaction.
He was glad Helen had seen her duty and given him over to Madeline,
but he felt a trifle piqued to think she had done it with such
apparent willingness. If she had wept or scolded it would have been
unpleasant but much more gratifying to his self-importance.
He could not help realizing, however, that her attitude toward him
was exceptionally fine. He knew well that he, if in her place,
would not have behaved as she had done. No spite, no sarcasm, no
taunts, no unpleasant reminders of things said only a few months
before. And with all her forgiveness and forbearance and
understanding there had been always that sense of greater age and
wisdom; she had treated him as she might have treated a boy,
younger brother, perhaps.
"She IS older than I am," he thought, "even if she really isn't.
It's funny, but it's a fact."
December came and Christmas, and then January and the new year, the
year 1917. In January, Z. Snow and Co. took its yearly account of
stock, and Captain Lote and Laban and Albert and Issachar were
truly busy during the days of stock-taking week and tired when
evening came. Laban worked the hardest of the quartette, but Issy
made the most fuss about it. Labe, who had chosen the holiday
season to go on one of his periodical vacations, as rather white
and shaky and even more silent than usual. Mr. Price, however,
talked with his customary fluency and continuity, so there was no
lack of conversation. Captain Zelotes was moved to comment.
"Issy," he suggested gravely, looking up from a long column of
figures, "did you ever play 'Door'?"
Issachar stared at him.
"Play 'Door'?" he repeated. "What's that?"
"It's a game. Didn't you ever play it?"
"No, don't know's I ever did."
"Then you'd better begin right this minute. The first thing to do
is to shut up and the next is to stay that way. You play 'Door'
until I tell you to do somethin' else; d'you hear?"
At home the week between Christmas and the New Year was rather
dismal. Mr. Keeler's holiday vacation had brought on one of his
fiancee's "sympathetic attacks," and she tied up her head and hung
crape upon her soul, as usual. During these attacks the Snow
household walked on tiptoe, as if the housekeeper were an invalid
in reality. Even consoling speeches from Albert, who with Laban
when the latter was sober, enjoyed in her mind the distinction of
being the reincarnation of "Robert Penfold," brought no relief to
the suffering Rachel. Nothing but the news brought by the milkman,
that "Labe was taperin' off," and would probably return to his desk
in a few days, eased her pain.
One forenoon about the middle of the month Captain Zelotes himself
stopped in at the post office for the morning mail. When he
returned to the lumber company's building he entered quietly and
walked to his own desk with a preoccupied air. For the half hour
before dinner time he sat there, smoking his pipe, and speaking to
no one unless spoken to. The office force noticed his preoccupation
and commented upon it.
"What ails the old man, Al?" whispered Issachar, peering in around
the corner of the door at the silent figure tilted back in the
revolving chair, its feet upon the corner of the desk. "Ain't said
so much as 'Boo' for up'ards of twenty minutes, has he? I was in
there just now fillin' up his ink-stand and, by crimus, I let a
great big gob of ink come down ker-souse right in the middle of the
nice, clean blottin' paper in front of him. I held my breath,
cal'latin' to catch what Stephen Peter used to say he caught when
he went fishin' Sundays. Stevey said he generally caught cold when
he went and always caught the Old Harry when he got back. I
cal'lated to catch the Old Harry part sure, 'cause Captain Lote is
always neat and fussy 'bout his desk. But no, the old man never
said a word. I don't believe he knew the ink was spilled at all.
What's on his mind, Al; do you know?"
Albert did not know, so he asked Laban. Laban shook his head.
"Give it up, Al," he whispered. "Somethin's happened to bother
him, that's sartin'. When Cap'n Lote gets his feet propped up and
his head tilted back that way I can 'most generally cal'late he's
doin' some real thinkin'. Real thinkin'--yes, sir-ee--um-hm--yes--
yes. When he h'ists his boots up to the masthead that way it's
safe to figger his brains have got steam up. Um-hm--yes indeed."
"But what is he thinking about? And why is he so quiet?"
"I give up both riddles, Al. He's the only one's got the answers
and when he gets ready enough maybe he'll tell 'em. Until then
it'll pay us fo'mast hands to make believe we're busy, even if we
ain't. Hear that, do you, Is?"
"Hear what?" demanded Issachar, who was gazing out of the window,
his hands in his pockets.
"I say it will pay us--you and Al and me--to make believe we're
workin' even if we ain't."
"'Workin'!" indignantly. "By crimus, I AM workin'! I don't have to
"That so? Well, then, I'd pick up that coal-hod and make believe
play for a spell. The fire's 'most out. Almost--um-hm--pretty
Albert and his grandfather walked home to dinner together, as was
their custom, but still the captain remained silent. During dinner
he spoke not more than a dozen words and Albert several times
caught Mrs. Snow regarding her husband intently and with a rather
anxious look. She did not question him, however, but Rachel was
not so reticent.
"Mercy on us, Cap'n Lote," she demanded, "what IS the matter?
You're as dumb as a mouthful of mush. I don't believe you've said
ay, yes or no since we sat down to table. Are you sick?"
Her employer's calm was unruffled.
"No-o," he answered, with deliberation.
"That's a comfort. What's the matter, then; don't you WANT to
"Oh," with a toss of the head, "well, I'm glad I know. I was
beginnin' to be afraid you'd forgotten how."
The captain helped himself to another fried "tinker" mackerel.
"No danger of that around here, Rachel," he said serenely. "So
long as my hearin's good I couldn't forget--not in this house."
Olive detained her grandson as he was following Captain Zelotes
from the dining room.
"What's wrong with him, Albert?" she whispered. "Do you know?"
"No, I don't, Grandmother. Do you think there is anything wrong?"
"I know there's somethin' troublin' him. I've lived with him too
many years not to know the signs. Oh, Albert--you haven't done
anything to displease him, have you?"
"No, indeed, Grandmother. Whatever it is, it isn't that."
When they reached the office, the captain spoke to Mr. Keeler.
"Had your dinner, Labe?" he asked.
"Yes--yes, indeed. Don't take me long to eat--not at my boardin'
house. A feller'd have to have paralysis to make eatin' one of
Lindy Dadgett's meals take more'n a half hour. Um-hm--yes."
Despite his preoccupation, Captain Zelotes could not help smiling.
"To make it take an hour he'd have to be ossified, wouldn't he,
like the feller in the circus sideshow?" he observed.
Laban nodded. "That--or dead," he replied. "Yes--just about--just
"He's eatin' yet, I cal'late. He don't board at Lindy's."
"When he gets back set him to pilin' that new carload of spruce
under Number Three shed. Keep him at it."
"Yes, sir. Um-hm. All right."
Captain Zelotes turned to his grandson. "Come in here, Al," he
said. "I want to see you for a few minutes."
Albert followed him into the inner office. He wondered what in the
world his grandfather wished to see him about, in this very private
"Sit down, Al," said the captain, taking his own chair and pointing
to another. "Oh, wait a minute, though! Maybe you'd better shut
that hatch first."
The "hatch" was the transom over the door between the offices.
Albert, remembering how a previous interview between them had been
overheard because of that open transom, glanced at his grandfather.
The twinkle in the latter's eye showed that he too, remembered.
Albert closed the "hatch." When he came back to his seat the
twinkle had disappeared; Captain Zelotes looked serious enough.
"Well, Grandfather?" queried the young man, after waiting a moment.
The captain adjusted his spectacles, reached into the inside pocket
of his coat and produced an envelope. It was a square envelope
with either a trade-mark or a crest upon the back. Captain Lote
did not open the envelope, but instead tapped his desk with it and
regarded his grandson in a meditative way.
"Al," he said slowly, "has it seemed to you that your cruise aboard
this craft of ours here had been a little smoother the last year or
two than it used to be afore that?"
Albert, by this time well accustomed to his grandfather's nautical
phraseology, understood that the "cruise" referred to was his
voyage as assistant bookkeeper with Z. Snow and Co. He nodded.
"I have tried to make it so," he answered. "I mean I have tried to
make it smoother for you."
"Um-hm, I think you have tried. I don't mind tellin' you that it
has pleased me consid'ble to watch you try. I don't mean by that,"
he added, with a slight curve of the lip, "that you'd win first
prize as a lightnin'-calculator even yet, but you're a whole lot
better one than you used to be. I've been considerable encouraged
about you; I don't mind tellin' you that either. . . . And," he
added, after another interval during which he was, apparently,
debating just how much of an admission it was safe to make, "so far
as I can see, this poetry foolishness of yours hasn't interfered
with your work any to speak of."
Albert smiled. "Thanks, Grandfather," he said.
"You're welcome. So much for that. But there's another side to
our relations together, yours and mine, that I haven't spoken of to
you afore. And I have kept still on purpose. I've figgered that
so long as you kept straight and didn't go off the course, didn't
drink or gamble, or go wild or the like of that, what you did was
pretty much your own business. I've noticed you're considerable of
a feller with the girls, but I kept an eye on the kind of girls and
I will say that so far as I can see, you've picked the decent kind.
I say so far as I can see. Of course I ain't fool enough to
believe I see all you do, or know all you do. I've been young
myself, and when I get to thinkin' how much I know about you I try
to set down and remember how much my dad didn't know about me when
I was your age. That--er--helps some toward givin' me my correct
position on the chart."
He paused. Albert's brain was vainly striving to guess what all
this meant. What was he driving at? The captain crossed his legs
"I did think for a spell," he said, "that you and Helen Kendall were
gettin' to understand each other pretty well. Well, Helen's a good
girl and your grandma and I like her. Course we didn't cal'late
anything very serious was liable to come of the understandin', not
for some time, anyhow, for with your salary and--well, sort of
unsettled prospects, I gave you credit for not figgerin' on pickin'
a wife right away. . . . Haven't got much laid by to support a wife
on, have you, Al?"
Albert's expression had changed during the latter portion of the
speech. Now he was gazing intently at his grandfather and at the
letter in the latter's hands. He was beginning to guess, to dread,
to be fearful.
"Haven't got much to support a wife on, Al, have you?" repeated
"No, sir, not now."
"Um. . . . But you hope to have by and by, eh? Well, I hope you
will. But UNTIL you have it would seem to older folks like me kind
of risky navigatin' to--to . . . Oh, there was a letter in the
mail for you this mornin, Al."
He put down the envelope he had hitherto held in his hand and,
reaching into his pocket, produced another. Even before he had
taken it from his grandfather's hand Albert recognized the
handwriting. It was from Madeline.
Captain Zelotes, regarding him keenly, leaned back again in his
chair. "Read it if you want to, Al," he said. "Maybe you'd
better. I can wait."
Albert hesitated a moment and then tore open the envelope. The
note within was short, evidently written in great haste and
agitation and was spotted with tear stains. He read it, his cheeks
paling and his hand shaking as he did so. Something dreadful had
happened. Mother--Mrs. Fosdick, of course--had discovered
everything. She had found all his--Albert's--letters and read
them. She was furious. There had been the most terrible scene.
Madeline was in her own room and was smuggling him this letter by
Mary, her maid,
who will do anything for me, and has promised to mail it. Oh,
dearest, they say I must give you up. They say-- Oh, they say
dreadful things about you! Mother declares she will take me to
Japan or some frightful place and keep me there until I forget you.
I don't care if they take me to the ends of the earth, I shall
NEVER forget you. I will never--never--NEVER give you up. And you
mustn't give me up, will you, darling? They say I must never write
you again. But you see I have--and I shall. Oh, what SHALL we do?
I was SO happy and now I am so miserable. Write me the minute you
get this, but oh, I KNOW they won't let me see your letters and
then I shall die. But write, write just the same, every day. Oh
what SHALL we do?
Yours, always and always, no matter what everyone does or says,
lovingly and devotedly,
When the reading was finished Albert sat silently staring at the
floor, seeing it through a wet mist. Captain Zelotes watched him,
his heavy brows drawn together and the smoke wreaths from his pipe
curling slowly upward toward the office ceiling. At length he
"Well, Al, I had a letter, too. I presume likely it came from the
same port even if not from the same member of the family. It's
about you, and I think you'd better read it, maybe. I'll read it
to you, if you'd rather."
Albert shook his head and held out his hand for the second letter.
His grandfather gave it to him, saying as he did so: "I'd like to
have you understand, Al, that I don't necessarily believe all that
she says about you in this thing."
"Thanks, Grandfather," mechanically.
"All right, boy."
The second letter was, as he had surmised, from Mrs. Fosdick. It
had evidently been written at top speed and at a mental temperature
well above the boiling point. Mrs. Fosdick addressed Captain
Zelotes Snow because she had been given to understand that he was
the nearest relative, or guardian, or whatever it was, of the
person concerning whom the letter was written and therefore, it was
presumed, might be expected to have some measure of control over
that person's actions. The person was, of course, one Albert
Speranza, and Mrs. Fosdick proceeded to set forth her version of
his conduct in sentences which might almost have blistered the
paper. Taking advantage of her trust in her daughter's good sense
and ability to take care of herself--which trust it appeared had
been in a measure misplaced--he, the Speranza person, had
sneakingly, underhandedly and in a despicably clandestine fashion--
the lady's temper had rather gotten away from her here--succeeded
in meeting her daughter in various places and by various
disgraceful means and had furthermore succeeded in ensnaring her
youthful affections, et cetera, et cetera.
"The poor child actually believes herself in love with him," wrote
the poor child's mother. "She protests ridiculously that she is
engaged to him and will marry him in spite of her father or myself
or the protests of sensible people. I write to you, therefore,
assuming you likewise to be a sensible person, and requesting that
you use your influence with the--to put the most charitable
interpretation of his conduct--misguided and foolish young man and
show him the preposterous folly of his pretended engagement to my
daughter. Of course the whole affair, CORRESPONDENCE INCLUDED,
must cease and terminate AT ONCE."
And so on for two more pages. The color had returned to Albert's
cheeks long before he finished reading. When he had finished he
rose to his feet and, throwing the letter upon his grandfather's
desk, turned away.
"Well, Al?" queried Captain Zelotes.
Albert's face, when he turned back to answer, was whiter than ever,
but his eyes flashed fire.
"Do you believe that?" he demanded.
"That--that stuff about my being a--a sneak and--and ensnaring her--
and all the rest? Do you?"
The captain took his pipe from his mouth.
"Steady, son, steady," he said. "Didn't I tell you before you
begun to read at all that I didn't necessarily believe it because
that woman wrote it."
"You--you or no one else had better believe it. It's a lie."
"All right, I'm glad to hear you say so. But there's a little mite
of truth here and there amongst the lies, I presume likely. For
instance, you and this Fosdick girl have been--er--keepin' company?"
"Her name is Madeline--and we are engaged to be married."
"Oh! Hum--I see--I see. And, bein' as the old lady--her mother,
Mrs. Fosdick, I mean--hasn't suspected anything, or, at any rate,
hasn't found out anything until now, yesterday, or whenever it was,
I judge you have been meetin'--er--Madeline at places where there
wasn't--well, too large a crowd. Eh?"
Albert hesitated and was, momentarily, a trifle embarrassed. But
he recovered at once.
"I met her first at the drug store last summer," he said defiantly.
"Then I met her after that at the post office and at the hotel
dance last fall, and so on. This year I met her--well, I met her
first down by the beach, where I went to write. She liked poetry
and--and she helped me with mine. After that she came--well, she
came to help me again. And after that--after that--"
"After that it just moved along kind of natural, eh? Um-hm, I
"Look here, Grandfather, I want you to understand that she is--is--
by George, she is the cleanest, finest, best girl in the world.
Don't you get the idea that--that she isn't. She came to meet me
just because she was interested in my verse and wanted to help. It
wasn't until the very last that we--that we found out we cared for
"All right, boy, all right. Go on, tell me the whole yarn, if you
feel like it. I don't want to pry too much into your affairs, but,
after all, I AM interested in those affairs, Al. Tell me as much
as you can."
"I'll tell you the whole. There's nothing I can't tell, nothing
I'm not proud to tell. By George, I ought to be proud! Why,
Grandfather, she's wonderful!"
"Sartin, son, sartin. They always are. I mean she is, of course.
So Albert told his love story. When he had finished Captain
Zelote's pipe was empty, and he put it down.
"Albert," he said slowly, "I judge you mean this thing seriously.
You mean to marry her some day."
"Yes, indeed I do. And I won't give her up, either. Her mother--
why, what right has her mother got to say--to treat her in this
way? Or to call me what she calls me in that letter? Why, by
"Easy, son. As I understand it, this Madeline of yours is the only
child the Fosdicks have got and when our only child is in danger of
bein' carried off by somebody else--why, well, their mothers and
fathers are liable to be just a little upset, especially if it
comes on 'em sudden. . . . Nobody knows that better than I do," he
Albert recognized the allusion, but he was not in the mood to be
affected by it. He was not, just then, ready to make allowances
for any one, particularly the parental Fosdicks.
"They have no business to be upset--not like that, anyhow," he
declared. "What does that woman know about me? What right has she
to say that I ensnared Madeline's affection and all that rot?
Madeline and I fell in love with each other, just as other people
have, I suppose."
"You suppose right," observed Captain Zelotes, dryly. "Other
people have--a good many of 'em since Adam's time."
"Well, then! And what right has she to give orders that I stop
writing or seeing Madeline,--all that idiotic stuff about ceasing
and terminating at once? She--she--" His agitation was making him
incoherent--"She talks like Lord Somebody-or-other in an old-
fashioned novel or play or something. Those old fools were always
rejecting undesirable suitors and ordering their daughters to do
this and that, breaking their hearts, and so on. But that sort of
thing doesn't go nowadays. Young people have their own ideas."
"Um-hm, Al; so I've noticed."
"Yes, indeed they have. Now, if Madeline wants to marry me and I
want to marry her, who will stop us?"
The captain pulled at his beard.
"Why, nobody, Al, as I know of," he said; "provided you both keep
on wantin' to marry each other long enough."
"Keep on wanting long enough? What do you mean by that?"
"Why, nothin' much, perhaps; only gettin' married isn't all just
goin' to the parson. After the ceremony the rent begins and the
grocers' bills and the butchers' and the bakers' and a thousand or
so more. Somebody's got to pay 'em, and the money's got to come
from somewhere. Your wages here, Al, poetry counted in, ain't so
very big yet. Better wait a spell before you settle down to
married life, hadn't you?"
"Well--well, I--I didn't say we were to be married right away,
Grandfather. She and I aren't unreasonable. I'm doing better and
better with my writings. Some day I'll make enough, and more. Why
There was enough of the Speranza egotism in this confident
assurance to bring the twinkle to the captain's eye. He twisted
his beard between his finger and thumb and regarded his grandson
"Have you any idea how much 'enough' is liable to be, Al?" he
inquired. "I don't know the facts about 'em, of course, but from
what I have heard I judge the Fosdicks have got plenty of cash.
I've heard it estimated around town from one million to fifty
millions. Allowin' it's only one million, it seems likely that
your--er--what's-her-name--Madeline has been used to havin' as much
as fifty cents to spend whenever she wanted it. Do you cal'late to
be able to earn enough makin' up poetry to keep her the way her
folks have been doin'?"
"No, of course not--not at first."
"Oh, but later on--when the market price of poetry has gone up--you
"Look here, Grandfather, if you're making fun of me I tell you I
won't stand it. This is serious; I mean it. Madeline and I are
going to be married some time and no one can stop us."
"All right, son, all right. But it did seem to me that in the
light of this letter from--er--your mother-in-law that's goin' to
be, we ought to face the situation moderately square, anyhow.
First comes marriage. Well, that's easy; any fool can get married,
lots of 'em do. But then, as I said, comes supportin' yourself and
wife--bills, bills, and more bills. You'll say that you and she
will economize and fight it out together. Fine, first-rate, but
later on there may be more of you, a child, children perhaps--"
"It's possible, son. Such things do happen, and they cost money.
More mouths to feed. Now I take it for granted that you aren't
marryin' the Fosdick girl for her money--"
The interruption was prompt and made with fiery indignation.
"I never thought of her money," declared Albert. "I don't even
know that she has any. If she has, I don't want it. I wouldn't
take it. She is all I want."
Captain Zelotes' lip twitched.
"Judgin' from the tone of her ma's last letter to me," he observed,
"she is all you would be liable to get. It don't read as if many--
er--weddin' presents from the bride's folks would come along with
her. But, there, there, Al don't get mad. I know this is a long
ways from bein' a joke to you and, in a way, it's no joke for me.
Course I had realized that some day you'd be figgerin', maybe, on
gettin' married, but I did hope the figgerin' wouldn't begin for
some years yet. And when you did, I rather hoped--well, I--I
hoped. . . . However, we won't stop to bother with that now.
Let's stick to this letter of Mrs. Fosdick's here. I must answer
that, I suppose, whether I want to or not, to-day. Well, Al, you
tell me, I understand that there has been nothin' underhand in your
acquaintance with her daughter. Other than keepin' the engagement
a secret, that is?"
"Yes, I do."
"And you mean to stick by your guns and. . . . Well, what is it?
There had been a knock upon the office door. In answer to his
employer's summons, Mr. Keeler appeared. He held a card in his
"Sorry to disturb you, Cap'n Lote," he said. "Yes, I be, yes, sir.
But I judged maybe 'twas somethin' important about the lumber for
his house and he seemed anxious to see you, so I took the risk and
knocked. Um-hm--yes, yes, yes."
Captain Zelotes looked at the card. Then he adjusted his spectacles
and looked again.
"Humph!" he grunted. "Humph! . . . We-ell, Labe, I guess likely
you might show him in here. Wait just a minute before you do it,
though. I'll open the door when I want him to come."
"All right, Cap'n Lote. Yes, yes," observed Mr. Keeler and
departed. The captain looked thoughtfully at the card.
"Al," he said, after a moment's reflection, "we'll have to cut this
talk of ours short for a little spell. You go back to your desk
and wait there until I call you. Hold on," as his grandson moved
toward the door of the outer office. "Don't go that way. Go out
through the side door into the yard and come in the front way.
There's--er--there's a man waitin' to see me, and--er--perhaps he'd
better not see you first."
Albert stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"Better not see ME?" he repeated. "Why shouldn't he see me?"
Captain Zelotes handed the card to Albert.
"Better let me talk with him first, Al," he said. "You can have
your chance later on."
The card bore the name of Mr. Fletcher Story Fosdick.
Albert read the name on the card. He was too astonished to speak.
Her father! He was here! He--
His grandfather spoke again, and his tone was brisk and businesslike.
"Go on, Al," he ordered. "Out through this side door and around to
the front. Lively, son, lively!"
But the young man's wits were returning. He scowled at the card.
"No," he said stoutly, "I'm not going to run away. I'm not afraid
of him. I haven't done anything to be ashamed of."
The captain nodded. "If you had, I should ASK you to run away," he
said. "As it is, I just ask you to step out and wait a little
while, that's all."
"But, Grandfather, I WANT to see him."
"All right, I want you to--but not until he and I have talked
first. Come, boy, come! I've lived a little longer than you have,
and maybe I know about half as much about some things. This is one
of 'em. You clear out and stand by. I'll call you when I want
Albert went, but reluctantly. After he had gone his grandfather
walked to the door of the outer office and opened it.
"Step aboard, Mr. Fosdick," he said. "Come in, sir."
Mr. Fletcher Fosdick was a large man, portly, and with a head which
was rapidly losing its thatch. His smoot-shaven face was ruddy and
his blue eye mild. He entered the private office of Z. Snow and
Co. and shook the hand which Captain Zelotes proffered.
"How do you do, Captain Snow?" he asked pleasantly. "You and I
have had some business dealings, but we have never met before, I
The captain waved toward a chair. "That's a fact, Mr. Fosdick," he
said. "I don't believe we ever have, but it's better late than by
and by, as the feller said. Sit down, sit down, Mr. Fosdick.
Throw off your coat, won't you? It's sort of warm in here compared
to out door."
The visitor admitted the difference in temperature between the
interior and exterior of the building, and removed his overcoat.
Also he sat down. Captain Zelotes opened a drawer of his desk and
produced a box of cigars.
"Have a smoke, won't you?" he inquired.
Mr. Fosdick glanced at the label on the box.
"Why--why, I was rather hoping you would smoke one of mine," he
said. "I have a pocket full."
"When I come callin' on you at your place in New York I will smoke
yours. Now it kind of looks to me as if you'd ought to smoke mine.
Seems reasonable when you think it over, don't it?"
Fosdick smiled. "Perhaps you're right," he said. He took one of
the gaudily banded perfectos from his host's box and accepted a
light from the match the captain held. Both men blew a cloud of
smoke and through those clouds each looked at the other. The
preliminaries were over, but neither seemed particularly anxious
to begin the real conversation. It was the visitor who, at last,
"Captain Snow," he said, "I presume your clerk told you I wished to
see you on a matter of business."
"Who? Oh, Labe, you mean? Yes, he told me."
"I told him to tell you that. It may surprise you, however, to
learn that the business I wished to see you about--that I came on
from New York to see you about--has nothing whatever to do with the
house I'm building down here."
Captain Zelotes removed his cigar from his lips and looked
meditatively at its burning end. "No-o," he said slowly, "that
don't surprise me very much. I cal'lated 'twasn't about the house
you wished to see me."
"Oh, I see! . . . Humph!" The Fosdick mild blue eye lost, for the
moment, just a trifle of its mildness and became almost keen, as
its owner flashed a glance at the big figure seated at the desk.
"I see," said Mr. Fosdick. "And have you--er--guessed what I did
come to see you about?"
"No-o. I wouldn't call it guessin', exactly."
"Wouldn't you? What would you call it?"
"We-ll, I don't know but I'd risk callin' it knowin'. Yes, I think
likely I would."
"Oh, I see. . . . Humph! Have you had a letter--on the subject?"
"I see. From Mrs. Fosdick, of course. She said she was going to
write--I'm not sure she didn't say she had written; but I had the
impression it was to--well, to another member of your family,
"No, 'twas to me. Come this mornin's mail."
"I see. My mistake. Well, I'm obliged to her in a way. If the
news has been broken to you, I shan't have to break it and we can
get down to brass tacks just so much sooner. The surprise being
over--I take it, it WAS a surprise, Captain?"
"You take it right. Just as much of a surprise to me as you."
"Of course. Well, the surprise being over for both of us, we can
talk of the affair--calmly and coolly. What do you think about it,
"Oh, I don't know as I know exactly what to think. What do YOU
think about it, Mr. Fosdick?"
"I think--I imagine I think very much as you do."
"I shouldn't he surprised. And--er--what's your notion of what I
Captain Zelotes' gray eye twinkled as he asked the question, and
the Fosdick blue eye twinkled in return. Both men laughed.
"We aren't getting very far this way, Captain," observed the
visitor. "There's no use dodging, I suppose. I, for one, am not
very well pleased. Mrs. Fosdick, for another, isn't pleased at
all; she is absolutely and entirely opposed to the whole affair.
She won't hear of it, that's all, and she said so much that I
thought perhaps I had better come down here at once, see you, and--
and the young fellow with the queer name--"
"Why yes. He is your grandson, isn't he? I beg your pardon."
"That's all right. I shan't fight with you because you don't like
his name. Go ahead. You decided to come and see him--and me--?"
"Yes, I did. I decided to come because it has been my experience
that a frank, straight talk is better, in cases like this, than a
hundred letters. And that the time to talk was now, before matters
between the young foo--the young people went any further. Don't
you agree with me?"
Captain Zelotes nodded.
"That now is a good time to talk? Yes, I do," he said.
"Good! Then suppose we talk."
There was another interval of silence. Then Fosdick broke it with
a chuckle. "And I'm the one to do the talking, eh?" he said.
Captain Lote's eye twinkled. "We-ll, you came all the way from New
York on purpose, you know," he observed. Then he added: "But
there, Mr. Fosdick, I don't want you to think I ain't polite or
won't talk, myself. I'll do my share when the time comes. But it
does seem to me that you ought to do yours first as it's your
family so far that's done the objectin'. . . . Your cigar's gone
out. Have another light, won't you?"
The visitor shook his head. "No, thank you, not now," he said
hastily, placing the defunct cigar carefully on the captain's desk.
"I won't smoke for the minute. So you want me to begin the
talking, do you? It seems to me I have begun it. I told you that
I do not like the idea of my daughter's being engaged to--to say
nothing of marrying--your grandson. My wife likes it even less
than I do. That is enough of a statement to begin with, isn't it?"
"Why, no, not exactly, if you'll excuse my sayin' so. Your
daughter herself--how does she feel about it?"
"Oh, she is enthusiastic, naturally. She appears to be suffering
from temporary insanity on the subject."
"She don't seem to think it's quite as--er--preposterous, and
ridiculous and outrageous--and Lord knows what all--as your wife
"No. I say, Snow, I hope you're not too deeply offended by what
my wife wrote you. I judge you are quoting from her letter and
apparently she piled it on red-hot. You'll have to excuse her; she
was almost wild all day yesterday. I'll ask your pardon on her
"Sho, sho! No need, Mr. Fosdick, no need at all. I know what
women are, even the easy-goin' kind, when they've got steam up.
I've got a wife--and I had a daughter. But, gettin' back on the
course again, you think your daughter's crazy because she wants to
marry my grandson. Is that it?"
"Why, no, I wouldn't say that, exactly. Of course, I wouldn't say
"But, you see, you did say it. However, we'll leave that to one
side for a spell. What objection--what real objection is there to
those two marryin'--my grandson and your daughter--provided that
they care for each other as they'd ought to?"
Mr. Fosdick's expression changed slightly. His tone, as he replied
to the question, was colder and his manner less cordial.
"I don't know that it is worth while answering that in detail," he
said, after an instant's pause. "Frankly, Captain Snow, I had
rather hoped you would see, for yourself, the reasons why such a
marriage wouldn't be desirable. If you don't see them, if you are
backing up your grandson in his business, why--well, there is no
use in our discussing the matter any further, is there? We should
only lose our tempers and not gain much. So we had better end it
now, I think."
He rose to his feet. Captain Zelotes, leaning forward, held up a
"Now--now, Mr. Fosdick," he said earnestly, "I don't want you to
misunderstand me. And I'm sorry if what I said has made you mad."
Fosdick smiled. "Oh, I'm not mad," he answered cheerfully. "I
make it a rule in all my business dealings not to get mad, or, more
especially, not to let the other fellow know that I'm getting that
way. My temper hasn't a ruffle in it just now, and I am leaving
merely because I want it to remain smooth. I judge that you and I
aren't going to agree. All right, then we'll differ, but we'll
differ without a fight, that's all. Good afternoon, Captain."
But Captain Lote's hand still remained uplifted.
"Mr. Fosdick," he said. "just a minute now--just a minute. You
never have met Albert, my grandson, have you? Never even seen him,
"No, but I intend to meet him and talk with him before I leave
South Harniss. He was one of the two people I came here to meet."
"And I was the other, eh? Um-hm. . . . I see. You think you've
found out where I stand and now you'll size him up. Honest, Mr.
Fosdick, I . . . Humph! Mind if I tell you a little story?
'Twon't take long. When I was a little shaver, me and my granddad,
the first Cap'n Lote Snow--there's been two since--were great
chums. When he was home from sea he and I stuck together like hot
pitch and oakum. One day we were sittin' out in the front yard of
his house--it's mine, now--watchin' a hoptoad catch flies. You've
seen a toad catch flies, haven't you, Mr. Fosdick? Mr. Toad sits
there, lookin' half asleep and as pious and demure as a pickpocket
at camp-meetin', until a fly comes along and gets too near. Then,
Zip! out shoots about six inches of toad tongue and that fly's been
asked in to dinner. Well, granddad and I sat lookin' at our
particular toad when along came a bumble-bee and lighted on a
honeysuckle blossom right in front of the critter. The toad didn't
take time to think it over, all he saw was a square meal, and his
tongue flashed out and nailed that bumble-bee and snapped it into
the pantry. In about a half second, though, there was a change.
The pantry had been emptied, the bumble-bee was on his way again,
and Mr. Toad was on his, hoppin' lively and huntin' for--well, for
ice water or somethin' coolin', I guess likely. Granddad tapped me
on the shoulder. 'Sonny,' says he, 'there's a lesson for you.
That hoptoad didn't wait to make sure that bumble-bee was good to
eat; he took it for granted, and was sorry afterward. It don't pay
to jump at conclusions, son,' he says. 'Some conclusions are like
that bumble-bee's, they have stings in 'em.'"
Captain Lote, having finished his story, felt in his pocket for
a match. Fosdick, for an instant, appeared puzzled. Then he
"I see," he said. "You think I made too quick a jump when I
concluded you were backing your grandson in this affair. All
right, I'm glad to hear it. What do you want me to do, sit down
again and listen?"
He resumed his seat as he asked the question. Captain Zelotes
"If you don't mind," he answered. "You see, you misunderstood me,
Mr. Fosdick. I didn't mean any more than what I said when I asked
you what real objection there was, in your opinion to Albert's
marryin' your--er--Madeline, that's her name, I believe. Seems to
me the way for us to get to an understandin'--you and I--is to find
out just how the situation looks to each of us. When we've found
out that, we'll know how nigh we come to agreein' or disagreein'
and can act accordin'. Sounds reasonable, don't it?"
Fosdick nodded in his turn. "Perfectly," he admitted. "Well, ask
your questions, and I'll answer them. After that perhaps I'll ask
some myself. Go ahead."
"I have gone ahead. I've asked one already."
"Yes, but it is such a general question. There may be so many
"I see. All right, then I'll ask some: What do the lawyers call
'em?--Atlantic? Pacific? I've got it--I'll ask some specific
questions. Here's one. Do you object to Al personally? To his
"Not at all. We know nothing about his character. Very likely he
may be a young saint."
"Well, he ain't, so we'll let that slide. He's a good boy, though,
so far as I've ever been able to find out. Is it his looks?
You've never seen him, but your wife has. Don't she like his
"She hasn't mentioned his looks to me."
"Is it his money? He hasn't got any of his own."
"We-ell, of course that does count a little bit. Madeline is our
only child, and naturally we should prefer to have her pick out a
husband with a dollar or so in reserve."
"Um-hm. Al's twenty-one, Mr. Fosdick. When I was twenty-one I had
some put by, but not much. I presume likely 'twas different with
you, maybe. Probably you were pretty well fixed."
Fosdick laughed aloud. "You make a good cross-examiner, Snow," he
observed. "As a matter of fact, when I was twenty-one I was
assistant bookkeeper in a New Haven broker's office. I didn't have
a cent except my salary, and I had that only for the first five
days in the week."
"However, you got married?"
"Yes, I did. More fool I! If I had known anything, I should have
waited five years at least. I didn't have any one to tell me so.
My father and mother were both dead."
"Think you'd have listened to 'em if they had been alive and had
told you? However, however, that's all to one side. Well,
Albert's havin' no money to speak of is an objection--and a good
honest one from your point of view. His prospects here in this
business of mine are fair, and he is doin' better at it than he
was, so he may make a comf'table livin'--a comf'table South Harniss
livin', that is--by and by."
"Oh, he is with you, then? Oh, yes, I remember my wife said he
worked in your office. But she said more about his being some sort
of a--a poet, wasn't it?"
For the first time since the interview began the captain looked ill
at ease and embarrassed.
"Thunderation!" he exclaimed testily, "you mustn't pay attention to
that. He does make up poetry' pieces--er--on the side, as you
might say, but I keep hopin' all the time he'll grow out of it,
give him time. It 'ain't his regular job, you mustn't think 'tis."
The visitor laughed again. "I'm glad of that," he said, "both for
your sake and mine. I judge that you and I, Snow, are in complete
agreement as far as our opinion of poetry and that sort of stuff is
concerned. Of course I'm not condemning all poetry, you understand.
Longfellow and Tennyson and the regular poets are all right. You
understand what I'm getting at?"
"Sartin. I used to know 'Down went the R'yal George with all her
crew complete,' and a lot more. Used to say 'em over to myself
when I first went to sea and stood watch alone nights. But they
were different, you know; they--they--"
"Sure! My wife--why, I give you my word that my own wife and her
set go perfectly daffy over chaps who write stuff that rhymes and
that the papers are printing columns about. Snow, if this grandson
of yours was a genuine press-touted, women's club poet instead of a
would-be--well, I don't know what might happen. In that case she
might be as strong FOR this engagement as she is now against it."
He paused, seeming a bit ashamed of his own heat. Captain Zelotes,
however, regarded him with more approval than he had yet shown.
"It's been my observation that women are likely to get off the
course chasin' false signals like that," he observed. "When a man
begins lettin' his hair and his mouth run wild together seems as if
the combination had an attraction for a good many women folks. Al
keeps his hair cut, though, I'll say that for him," he added. "It
curls some, but it ain't long. I wouldn't have him in the office
"Well, Mr. Fosdick," he continued, "what other objections are they?
Manners? Family and relations? Education? Any objections along
"No-o, no; I--well, I don't know; you see, I don't know much about
the young fellow."
"Perhaps I can help you out. As to manners--well, you can judge
them for yourself when you see him. He seems to be in about every
kind of social doin's there is down here, and he's as much or more
popular with the summer folks than with the year-'rounders.
Education? Well, that's fair to middlin', as I see it. He spent
nine or ten years in a mighty expensive boardin' school up in New
"Did he? What school?"
The captain gave the name of the school. Fosdick looked surprised.
"Humph! That IS a good school," he said.
"Is it? Depends on what you call good, I cal'late. Al learned a
good deal of this and that, a little bit of foreign language, some
that they call dead and some that ought to be dead--and buried,
'cordin' to my notion. When he came to me he couldn't add up a
column of ten figgers without makin' a mistake, and as for
business--well, what he knew about business was about equal to what
Noah knew about a gas engine."
He paused to chuckle, and Fosdick chuckled with him.
"As to family," went on Captain Lote, "he's a Snow on his mother's
side, and there's been seven generations of Snow's in this part of
the Cape since the first one landed here. So far as I know,
they've all managed to keep out of jail, which may have been more
good luck than deservin' in some cases."
"His father?" queried Fosdick.
The captain's heavy brows drew together. "His father was a
Portygee--or Spaniard, I believe is right--and he was a play-actor,
one of those--what do you call 'em?--opera singers."
Fosdick seemed surprised and interested. "Oh, indeed," he
exclaimed, "an opera singer? . . . Why, he wasn't Speranza, the
baritone, was he?"
"Maybe; I believe he was. He married my daughter and--well, we
won't talk about him, if you don't mind."
"But Speranza was a--"
"IF you don't mind, Mr. Fosdick."
Captain Lote lapsed into silence, drumming the desk with his big
fingers. His visitor waited for a few moments. At length he said:
"Well, Captain Snow, I have answered your questions and you have
answered mine. Do you think we are any nearer an agreement now?"
Captain Zelotes seemed to awake with a start. "Eh?" he queried.
"Agreement? Oh, I don't know. Did you find any--er--what you
might call vital objections in the boy's record?"
"No-o. No, all that is all right. His family and his education
and all the rest are good enough, I'm sure. But, nevertheless--"
"You still object to the young folks gettin' married."
"Yes, I do. Hang it all, Snow, this isn't a thing one can reason
out, exactly. Madeline is our only child; she is our pet, our
baby. Naturally her mother and I have planned for her, hoped for
her, figured that some day, when we had to give her up, it would
"To somebody that wasn't Albert Speranza of South Harniss,
Mass. . . . Eh?"
"Yes. Not that your grandson isn't all right. I have no doubt he
is a tip-top young fellow. But, you see--"
Captain Lote suddenly leaned forward. "Course I see, Mr. Fosdick,"
he interrupted. "Course I see. You object, and the objection
ain't a mite weaker on account of your not bein' able to say
exactly what 'tis."
"That's the idea. Thank you, Captain."
"You're welcome. I can understand. I know just how you feel,
because I've been feelin' the same way myself."
"Oh, you have? Good! Then you can sympathize with Mrs. Fosdick
and with me. You see--you understand why we had rather our
daughter did not marry your grandson."
"Sartin. You see, I've had just the same sort of general kind of
objection to Al's marryin' your daughter."
Mr. Fletcher Fosdick leaned slowly backward in his chair. His
appearance was suggestive of one who has received an unexpected
thump between the eyes.
"Oh, you have!" he said again, but not with the same expression.
"Um-hm," said Captain Zelotes gravely. "I'm like you in one way;
I've never met your Madeline any more than you have met Al. I've
seen her once or twice, and she is real pretty and nice-lookin'.
But I don't know her at all. Now I don't doubt for a minute but
that she's a real nice girl and it might be that she'd make Al a
fairly good wife."
"Oh, that's all right, I mean it. It might be she would. And I
ain't got a thing against you or your folks."
"That's all right; you don't need to thank me. But it's this way
with me--I live in South Harniss all the year round. I want to
live here till I die, and--after I die I'd like first-rate to have
Al take up the Z. Snow and Co. business and the Snow house and land
and keep them goin' till HE dies. Mind, I ain't at all sure that
he'll do it, or be capable of doin' it, but that's what I'd like.
Now you're in New York most of the year, and so's your wife and
daughter. New York is all right--I ain't sayin' a word against it--
but New York and South Harniss are different."
The Fosdick lip twitched. "Somewhat different," he admitted.
"Um-hm. That sounds like a joke, I know; but I don't mean it so,
not now. What I mean is that I know South Harniss and South
Harniss folks. I don't know New York--not so very well, though
I've been there plenty of times--and I don't know New York ways.
But I do know South Harniss ways, and they suit me. Would they
suit your daughter--not just for summer, but as a reg'lar thing
right straight along year in and out? I doubt it, Mr. Fosdick, I
doubt it consid'able. Course I don't know your daughter--"
"I do--and I share your doubts."
"Um-hm. But whether she liked it or not she'd have to come here if
she married my grandson. Either that or he'd have to go to New
York. And if he went to New York, how would he earn his livin'?
Get a new bookkeepin' job and start all over again, or live on
Mr. Fosdick opened his mouth as if to speak, seemed to change his
mind and closed it again, without speaking. Captain Zelotes,
looking keenly at him, seemed to guess his thoughts.
"Of course," he said deliberately, but with a firmness which
permitted no misunderstanding of his meaning, "of course you
mustn't get it into your head for one minute that the boy is
figgerin' on your daughter's bein' a rich girl. He hasn't given
that a thought. You take my word for that, Mr. Fosdick. He
doesn't know how much money she or you have got and he doesn't
care. He doesn't care a continental darn."
His visitor smiled slightly. "Nevertheless," he began. The
captain interrupted him.
"No, there ain't any nevertheless," he said. "Albert has been with
me enough years now so that I know a little about him. And I know
that all he wants is your daughter. As to how much she's worth in
money or how they're goin' to live after he's got her--I know that
he hasn't given it one thought. I don't imagine she has, either.
For one reason," he added, with a smile, "he is too poor a business
man to think of marriage as a business, bill-payin' contract, and
for another,--for another--why, good Lord, Fosdick!" he exclaimed,
leaning forward, "don't you know what this thing means to those two
young folks? It means just moonshine and mush and lookin' into
each other's eyes, that's about all. THEY haven't thought any
practical thoughts about it. Why, think what their ages are!
Think of yourself at that age! Can't you remember. . . . Humph!
Well, I'm talkin' fifty revolutions to the second. I beg your
"That's all right, Snow. And I believe you have the situation
sized up as it is. Still--"
"Excuse me, Mr. Fosdick, but don't you think it's about time you
had a look at the boy himself? I'm goin' to ask him to come in
here and meet you."
Fosdick looked troubled. "Think it is good policy?" he asked
doubtfully. "I want to see him and speak with him, but I do hate a
"There won't be any scene. You just meet him face to face and talk
enough with him to get a little idea of what your first impression
is. Don't contradict or commit yourself or anything. And I'll
send him out at the end of two or three minutes."
Without waiting for a reply, he rose, opened the door to the outer
office and called, "Al, come in here!" When Albert had obeyed the
order he closed the door behind him and turning to the gentleman in
the visitor's chair, said: "Mr. Fosdick, this is my grandson,
Albert Speranza. Al, shake hands with Mr. Fosdick from New York."
While awaiting the summons to meet the father of his adored, Albert
had been rehearsing and re-rehearsing the speeches he intended
making when that meeting took place. Sitting at his desk, pen in
hand and pretending to be busy with the bookkeeping of Z. Snow and
Company, he had seen, not the ruled page of the day book, but the
parental countenance of the Honorable Fletcher Fosdick. And, to
his mind's eye, that countenance was as rugged and stern as the
rock-bound coast upon which the Pilgrims landed, and about as
unyielding and impregnable as the door of the office safe. So,
when his grandfather called him, he descended from the tall desk
stool and crossed the threshold of the inner room, a trifle pale, a
little shaky at the knees, but with the set chin and erect head of
one who, facing almost hopeless odds, intends fighting to the last
To his astonishment the Fosdick countenance was not as his
imagination had pictured it. The blue eyes met his, not with a
glare or a glower, but with a look of interest and inquiry. The
Fosdick hand shook his with politeness, and the Fosdick manner was,
if not genial, at least quiet and matter of fact. He was taken
aback. What did it mean? Was it possible that Madeline's father
was inclined to regard her engagement to him with favor? A great
throb of joy accompanied the thought. Then he remembered the
letter he had just read, the letter from Madeline's mother, and the
"Albert," said Captain Zelotes, "Mr. Fosdick has come on here to
talk with us; that is, with me and you, about your affairs. He and
I have talked up to the point where it seemed to me you ought to
come in for a spell. I've told him that the news that you and his
daughter were--er--favorably disposed toward each other was as
sudden and as big a surprise to me as 'twas to him. Even your
grandma don't know it yet. Now I presume likely he'd like to ask
you a few questions. Heave ahead, Mr. Fosdick."
He relit his cigar stump and leaned back in his chair. Mr. Fosdick
leaned forward in his. Albert stood very straight, his shoulders
braced for the encounter. The quizzical twinkle shone in Captain
Lote's eye as he regarded his grandson. Fosdick also smiled
momentarily as he caught the expression of the youth's face.
"Well, Speranza," he began, in so cheerful a tone that Albert's
astonishment grew even greater, "your grandfather has been kind
enough to get us through the preliminaries, so we'll come at once
to the essentials. You and my daughter consider yourselves engaged
"Yes, sir. We ARE engaged."
"I see. How long have you--um--been that way, so to speak?"
"Since last August."
"Why haven't you said anything about it to us--to Mrs. Fosdick or
me or your people here? You must excuse these personal questions.
As I have just said to Captain Snow, Madeline is our only child,
and her happiness and welfare mean about all there is in life to
her mother and me. So, naturally, the man she is going to marry is
an important consideration. You and I have never met before, so
the quickest way of reaching an understanding between us is by the
question route. You get my meaning?"
"Yes, sir, I guess I do."
"Good! Then we'll go ahead. Why have you two kept it a secret so
"Because--well, because we knew we couldn't marry yet a while, so
we thought we had better not announce it for the present."
"Oh! . . . And the idea that perhaps Mrs. Fosdick and I might be
slightly interested didn't occur to you?"
"Why, yes, sir, it did. But,--but we thought it best not to tell
you until later."
"Perhaps the suspicion that we might not be overjoyed by the news
had a little weight with you, eh? Possibly that helped to delay
"No, sir, I--I don't think it did."
"Oh, don't you! Perhaps you thought we WOULD be overjoyed?"
"No, sir. We didn't think so very much about it. Well, that's not
quite true. Madeline felt that her mother--and you, too, sir, I
suppose, although she didn't speak as often of you in that way--she
felt that her mother would disapprove at first, and so we had
"Until--until by and by. Until I had gone ahead further, you
"I'm not sure that I do know. Gone ahead how? Until you had a
better position, more salary?"
"No, not exactly. Until my writings were better known. Until I
was a little more successful."
"Successful? Until you wrote more poetry, do you mean?"
"Yes, sir. Poetry and other things, stories and plays, perhaps."
"Do you mean-- Did you figure that you and Madeline were to live
on what you made by writing poetry and the other stuff?"
"Yes, sir, of course."
Fosdick looked across at Captain Zelotes. The Captain's face was
worth looking at.
"Here, here, hold on!" he exclaimed, jumping into the conversation.
"Al, what are you talkin' about? You're bookkeeper for me, ain't
you; for this concern right here where you are? What do you mean
by talkin' as if your job was makin' up poetry pieces? That's only
what you do on the side, and you know it. Eh, ain't that so?"
Albert hesitated. He had, momentarily, forgotten his grandfather
and the latter's prejudices. After all, what was the use of
stirring up additional trouble.
"Yes, Grandfather," he said.
"Course it's so. It's in this office that you draw your wages."
"All right. Excuse me for nosin' in, Mr. Fosdick, but I knew the
boy wasn't puttin' the thing as plain as it ought to be, and I
didn't want you to get the wrong notion. Heave ahead."
Fosdick smiled slightly. "All right, Captain," he said. "I get
it, I think. Well, then," turning again to Albert, "your plan for
supporting my daughter was to wait until your position here, plus
the poetry, should bring in sufficient revenue. It didn't occur to
you that--well, that there might be a possibility of getting money--
Albert plainly did not understand, but it was just as plain that
his grandfather did. Captain Zelotes spoke sharply.
"Mr. Fosdick," he said, "I just answered that question for you."
"Yes, I know. But if you were in my place you might like to have
him answer it. I don't mean to be offensive, but business is
business, and, after all, this is a business talk. So--"
The Captain interrupted. "So we'll talk it in a business way, eh?"
he snapped. "All right. Al, what Mr. Fosdick means is had you
cal'lated that, if you married his daughter, maybe her dad's money
might help you and her to keep goin'? To put it even plainer: had
you planned some on her bein' a rich girl?"
Fosdick looked annoyed. "Oh, I say, Snow!" he cried. "That's too
"Not a mite. It's what you've had in the back of your head all
along. I'm just helpin' it to come out of the front. Well, Al?"
The red spots were burning in the Speranza cheeks. He choked as he
"No," he cried fiercely. "Of course I haven't planned on any such
thing. I don't know how rich she is. I don't care. I wish she
was as poor as--as I am. I want HER, that's all. And she wants
me. We don't either of us care about money. I wouldn't take a
cent of your money, Mr. Fosdick. But I--I want Madeline and--and--
I shall have her."
"In spite of her parents, eh?"
"Yes. . . . I'm sorry to speak so, Mr. Fosdick, but it is true.
We--we love each other. We--we've agreed to wait for each other,
no matter--no matter if it is years and years. And as for the
money and all that, if you disinherit her, or--or whatever it is
they do--we don't care. I--I hope you will. I--she--"
Captain Zelotes' voice broke in upon the impassioned outburst.
"Steady, Al; steady, son," he cautioned quietly. "I cal'late
you've said enough. I don't think any more's necessary. You'd
better go back to your desk now."
"But, Grandfather, I want him to understand--"
"I guess likely he does. I should say you'd made it real plain.
Go now, Al."
Albert turned, but, with a shaking hand upon the doorknob, turned
"I'm--I--I'm sorry, Mr. Fosdick," he faltered. "I--I didn't mean
to say anything to hurt your feelings. But--but, you see,
Madeline--she and I--we--"
He could not go on. Fosdick's nod and answer were not unkindly.
"All right, Speranza," he said, "I'm not offended. Hope I wasn't
too blunt, myself. Good-day."
When the door had closed behind the young man he turned to Captain
"Sorry if I offended you, Snow," he observed. "I threw in that
hint about marrying just to see what effect it would have, that's
"Um-hm. So I judged. Well, you saw, didn't you?"
"I did. Say, Captain, except as a prospective son-in-law, and then
only because I don't see him in that light--I rather like that
grandson of yours. He's a fine, upstanding young chap."
The captain made no reply. He merely pulled at his beard.
However, he did not look displeased.
"He's a handsome specimen, isn't he?" went on Fosdick. "No wonder
Madeline fell for his looks. Those and the poetry together are a
combination hard to resist--at her age. And he's a gentleman. He
handled himself mighty well while I was stringing him just now."
The beard tugging continued. "Um-hm," observed Captain Zelotes
dryly; "he does pretty well for a--South Harniss gentleman. But
we're kind of wastin' time, ain't we, Mr. Fosdick? In spite of his
looks and his manners and all the rest, now that you've seen him
you still object to that engagement, I take it."
"Why, yes, I do. The boy is all right, I'm sure, but--"
"Sartin, I understand. I feel the same way about your girl. She's
all right, I'm sure, but--"
"We're agreed on everything, includin' the 'but.' And the 'but' is
that New York is one place and South Harniss is another."
"So we don't want 'em to marry. Fine. First rate! Only now we
come to the most important 'but' of all. What are we going to do
about it? Suppose we say no and they say yes and keep on sayin'
it? Suppose they decide to get married no matter what we say. How
are we goin' to stop it?"
His visitor regarded him for a moment and then broke into a hearty
"Snow," he declared, "you're all right. You surely have the
faculty of putting your finger on the weak spots. Of course we
can't stop it. If these two young idiots have a mind to marry and
keep that mind, they WILL marry and we can't prevent it any more
than we could prevent the tide coming in to-morrow morning. _I_
realized that this was a sort of fool's errand, my coming down
here. I know that this isn't the age when parents can forbid
marriages and get away with it, as they used to on the stage in the
old plays. Boys and girls nowadays have a way of going their own
gait in such matters. But my wife doesn't see it in exactly that
way, and she was so insistent on my coming down here to stop the
thing if I could that--well, I came."
"I'm glad you did, Mr. Fosdick, real glad. And, although I agree
with you that the very worst thing to do, if we want to stop this
team from pullin' together, is to haul back on the bits and holler
'Whoa,' still I'm kind of hopeful that, maybe . . . humph! I
declare, it looks as if I'd have to tell you another story. I'm
gettin' as bad as Cap'n Hannibal Doane used to be, and they used to
call him 'The Rope Walk' 'cause he spun so many yarns."
Fosdick laughed again. "You may go as far as you like with your
stories, Captain," he said. "I can grow fat on them."
"Thanks. Well, this ain't a story exactly; it just kind of makes
the point I'm tryin' to get at. Calvin Bangs had a white mare one
time and the critter had a habit of runnin' away. Once his wife,
Hannah J., was in the buggy all by herself, over to the Ostable
Fair, Calvin havin' got out to buy some peanuts or somethin'. The
mare got scared of the noise and crowd and bolted. As luck would
have it, she went right through the fence and out onto the trottin'
track. And around that track she went, hell bent for election.
All hands was runnin' alongside hollerin' 'Stop her! Stop her!
'but not Calvin--no SIR! He waited till the mare was abreast of
him, the mare on two legs and the buggy on two wheels and Hannah
'most anywheres between the dasher and the next world, and then he
sung out: 'Give her her head, Hannah! Give her her head. She'll
stop when she runs down.'"
He laughed and his visitor laughed with him.
"I gather," observed the New Yorker, "that you believe it the
better policy to give our young people their heads."
"In reason--yes, I do. It's my judgment that an affair like this
will hurry more and more if you try too hard to stop it. If you
don't try at all so any one would notice it, it may run down and
stop of itself, the way Calvin's mare did."
Fosdick nodded reflectively. "I'm inclined to agree with you," he
said. "But does that mean that they're to correspond, write love
letters, and all that?"
"Why, in reason, maybe. If we say no to that, they'll write
anyhow, won't they?"
"Of course. . . . How would it do to get them to promise to write
nothing that their parents might not see? Of course I don't mean
for your grandson to show you his letters before he sends them to
Madeline. He's too old for that, and he would refuse. But suppose
you asked him to agree to write nothing that Madeline would not be
willing to show her mother--or me. Do you think he would?"
"Maybe. I'll ask him. . . . Yes, I guess likely he'd do that."
"My reason for suggesting it is, frankly, not so much on account of
the young people as to pacify my wife. I am not afraid--not very
much afraid of this love affair. They are young, both of them.
Give them time, and--as you say, Snow, the thing may run down,
"I'm in hopes 'twill. It's calf love, as I see it, and I believe
'twill pay to give the calves rope enough."
"So do I. No, I'm not much troubled about the young people. But
Mrs. Fosdick--well, my trouble will be with her. She'll want to
have your boy shot or jailed or hanged or something."
"I presume likely. I guess you'll have to handle her the way
another feller who used to live here in South Harniss said he
handled his wife. 'We don't never have any trouble at all,' says
he. 'Whenever she says yes or no, I say the same thing. Later on,
when it comes to doin', I do what I feel like.' . . . Eh? You're
not goin', are you, Mr. Fosdick?"
His visitor had risen and was reaching for his coat. Captain
Zelotes also rose.
"Don't hurry, don't hurry," he begged.
"Sorry, but I must. I want to be back in New York tomorrow
"But you can't, can you? To do that you'll have to get up to
Boston or Fall River, and the afternoon train's gone. You'd better
stay and have supper along with my wife and me, stay at our house
over night, and take the early train after breakfast to-morrow."
"I wish I could; I'd like nothing better. But I can't."
"Sure?" Then, with a smile, he added: "Al needn't eat with us,
you know, if his bein' there makes either of you feel nervous."
Fosdick laughed again. "I think I should be willing to risk the
nervousness," he replied. "But I must go, really. I've hired a
chap at the garage here to drive me to Boston in his car and I'll
take the midnight train over."
"Humph! Well, if you must, you must. Hope you have a comf'table
trip, Mr. Fosdick. Better wrap up warm; it's pretty nigh a five-
hour run to Boston and there's some cool wind over the Ostable
marshes this time of year. Good-by, sir. Glad to have had this
talk with you."
His visitor held out his hand. "So am I, Snow," he said heartily.
"I hope I wasn't too short and brisk at the beginnin'. You see,
I'd just read your wife's letter, and--er--well, of course, I
didn't know--just--you see, you and I had never met, and so--"
"Certainly, certainly. I quite understand. And, fool's errand or
not, I'm very glad I came here. If you'll pardon my saying so, it
was worth the trip to get acquainted with you. I hope, whatever
comes of the other thing, that our acquaintanceship will continue."
"Same here, same here. Go right out the side door, Mr. Fosdick,
saves goin' through the office. Good day, sir."
He watched the bulky figure of the New York banker tramping across
the yard between the piles of lumber. A moment later he entered
the outer office. Albert and Keeler were at their desks. Captain
Zelotes approached the little bookkeeper.
"Labe," he queried, "there isn't anything particular you want me to
talk about just now, is there?"
Lahan looked up in surprise from his figuring.
"Why--why, no, Cap'n Lote, don't know's there is," he said. "Don't
know's there is, not now, no, no, no."
His employer nodded. "Good!" he exclaimed. "Then I'm goin' back
inside there and sit down and rest my chin for an hour, anyhow.
I've talked so much to-day that my jaws squeak. Don't disturb me
for anything short of a fire or a mutiny."
He was not disturbed and that evening, after supper was over, he
was ready to talk again. He and Albert sat together in the sitting
room--Mrs. Snow and Rachel were in the kitchen washing dishes--and
Captain Zelotes told his grandson as much as he thought advisable
to tell of his conversation with the Honorable Fletcher Fosdick.
At first Albert was inclined to rebel at the idea of permitting his
letters to Madeline to be read by the latter's parents, but at
length he agreed.
"I'll do it because it may make it easier for her," he said.
"She'll have a dreadful time, I suppose, with that unreasonable
mother of hers. But, by George, Grandfather," he exclaimed, "isn't
she splendid, though!"
"Who? Mrs. Fosdick?"
"No, of course not," indignantly. "Madeline. Isn't she splendid
and fine and loyal! I want you to know her, Grandfather, you and
"Um-hm. Well, we'll hope to, some day. Now, son, I'm goin' to ask
for another promise. It may seem a hard one to make, but I'm
askin' you to make it. I want you to give me your word that, no
matter what happens or how long you have to wait, you and Madeline
won't get married without tellin' her folks and yours beforehand.
You won't run away and marry. Will you promise me that?"
Albert looked at him. This WAS a hard promise to make. In their
talks beneath the rainbows, whenever he and Madeline had referred
to the future and its doubts, they had always pushed those doubts
aside with vague hints of an elopement. If the unreasonableness of
parents and grandparents should crowd them too far, they had always
as a last resort, the solution of their problem by way of a runaway
marriage. And now Captain Zelotes was asking him to give up this
The captain, watching him keenly, divined what was in his
"Think it over, Al," he said kindly. "Don't answer me now, but
think it over, and to-morrow mornin' tell me how you feel about
it." He hesitated a moment and then added: "You know your
grandmother and I, we--well, we have maybe cause to be a little
mite prejudiced against this elopin' business."
So Albert thought, and the next morning, as the pair were walking
together to the office, he spoke his thought. Captain Zelotes had
not mentioned the subject.
"Grandfather," said Albert, with some embarrassment, "I'm going to
give you that promise."
His grandfather, who had been striding along, his heavy brows drawn
together and his glance fixed upon the frozen ground beneath his
feet, looked up.
"Eh?" he queried, uncomprehendingly.
"You asked me last night to promise you something, you know. . . .
You asked me to think it over. I have, and I'm going to promise
you that--Madeline and I won't marry without first telling you."
Captain Zelotes stopped in his stride; then he walked on again.
"Thank you, Al," he said quietly. "I hoped you'd see it that way."
"Yes--yes, I--I do. I don't want to bring any more--trouble of
that kind to you and Grandmother. . . . It seems to me that you--
that you have had too much already."
"Thank you, son. . . . Much obliged."
The captain's tone was almost gruff and that was his only reference
to the subject of the promise; but somehow Albert felt that at that
moment he and his grandfather were closer together, were nearer to
a mutual understanding and mutual appreciation than they had ever
To promise, however, is one thing, to fulfill the obligation
another. As the days passed Albert found his promise concerning
letter-writing very, very hard to keep. When, each evening he sat
down at the table in his room to pour out his soul upon paper it
was a most unsatisfactory outpouring. The constantly enforced
recollection that whatever he wrote would be subject to the
chilling glance of the eye of Fosdick mater was of itself a check
upon the flow. To write a love letter to Madeline had hitherto
been a joy, a rapture, to fill pages and pages a delight. Now,
somehow, these pages were hard to fill. Omitting the very things
you were dying to say, the precious, the intimate things--what was
there left? He and she had, at their meetings and in their former
correspondence, invented many delightful little pet names for each
other. Now those names were taboo; or, at any rate, they might as
well be. The thought of Mrs. Fosdick's sniff of indignant disgust
at finding her daughter referred to as some one's ownest little
rosebud withered that bud before it reached the paper.
And Madeline's letters to him were quite as unsatisfactory. They
were lengthy, but oh, so matter of fact! Saharas of fact without
one oasis of sentiment. She was well and she had done this and
that and had been to see such and such plays and operas. Father
was well and very busy. Mother, too, was well, so was Googoo--but
these last two bits of news failed to comfort him as they perhaps
should. He could only try to glean between the lines, and as Mrs.
Fosdick had raked between those lines before him, the gleaning was
scant picking indeed.
He found himself growing disconsolate and despondent. Summer
seemed ages away. And when at last it should come--what would
happen then? He could see her only when properly chaperoned, only
when Mother, and probably Googoo, were present. He flew for
consolation to the Muse and the Muse refused to console. The poems
he wrote were "blue" and despairing likewise. Consequently they
did not sell. He was growing desperate, ready for anything. And
something came. Germany delivered to our Government its arrogant
mandate concerning unlimited submarine warfare. A long-suffering
President threw patience overboard and answered that mandate in
unmistakable terms. Congress stood at his back and behind them a
united and indignant people. The United States declared war upon
South Harniss, like every other community, became wildly excited.
Captain Zelotes Snow's gray eyes flashed fiery satisfaction. The
flags at the Snow place and at the lumber yard flew high night and
day. He bought newspapers galore and read from them aloud at
meals, in the evenings, and before breakfast. Issachar, as usual,
talked much and said little. Laban Keeler's comments were pithy
and dryly pointed. Albert was very quiet.
But one forenoon he spoke. Captain Lote was in the inner office,
the morning newspaper in his hand, when his grandson entered and
closed the door behind him. The captain looked up.
"Well, Al, what is it?" he asked.
Albert came over and stood beside the desk. The captain, after a
moment's scrutiny of the young man's face, put down his newspaper.
"Well, Al?" he said, again.
Albert seemed to find it hard to speak.
"Grandfather," he began, "I--I--Grandfather, I have come to ask a
favor of you."
The captain nodded, slowly, his gaze fixed upon his grandson's
"All right; heave ahead," he said quietly.
"Grandfather, you and I have had a four years' agreement to work
together in this office. It isn't up yet, but--but I want to break
it. I want you to let me off."
"Humph! . . . Let you off, eh? . . . What for?"
"That's what I came here to tell you. Grandfather, I can't stay
here--now. I want to enlist."
Captain Zelotes did not answer. His hand moved upward and pulled
at his beard.
"I want to enlist," repeated Albert. "I can't stand it another
minute. I must. If it hadn't been for you and our promise and--
and Madeline, I think I should have joined the Canadian Army a year
or more ago. But now that we have gone into the war, I CAN'T stay
out. Grandfather, you don't want me to, do you? Of course you
His grandfather appeared to ponder.
"If you can wait a spell," he said slowly, "I might be able to fix
it so's you can get a chance for an officer's commission. I'd
ought to have some pull somewheres, seems so."
Albert sniffed impatient disgust. "I don't want to get a
commission--in that way," he declared.
"Humph! You'll find there's plenty that do, I shouldn't wonder."
"Perhaps, but I'm not one of them. And I don't care so much for a
commission, unless I can earn it. And I don't want to stay here
and study for it. I want to go now. I want to get into the thing.
I don't want to wait."
Captain Lote leaned forward. His gray eyes snapped.
"Want to fight, do you?" he queried.
"You bet I do!"
"All right, my boy, then go--and fight. I'd be ashamed of myself
if I held you back a minute. Go and fight--and fight hard. I only
wish to God I was young enough to go with you."
And so, in this unexpected fashion, came prematurely the end of the
four year trial agreement between Albert Speranza and Z. Snow and
Co. Of course neither Captain Zelotes nor Albert admitted that it
had ended. Each professed to regard the break as merely temporary.
"You'll be back at that desk in a little while, Al," said the
captain, "addin' up figgers and tormentin' Issy." And Albert's
reply was invariably, "Why, of course, Grandfather."
He had dreaded his grandmother's reception of the news of his
intended enlistment. Olive worshiped her daughter's boy and,
although an ardent patriot, was by no means as fiercely belligerent
as her husband. She prayed each night for the defeat of the Hun,
whereas Captain Lote was for licking him first and praying
afterwards. Albert feared a scene; he feared that she might be
prostrated when she learned that he was to go to war. But she bore
it wonderfully well, and as for the dreaded "scene," there was
"Zelotes says he thinks it's the right thing for you to do, Albert,"
she said, "so I suppose I ought to think so, too. But, oh, my dear,
DO you really feel that you must? I--it don't seem as I could bear
to . . . but there, I mustn't talk so. It ain't a mite harder for
me than it is for thousands of women all over this world. . . . And
perhaps the government folks won't take you, anyway. Rachel said
she read in the Item about some young man over in Bayport who was
rejected because he had fat feet. She meant flat feet, I suppose,
poor thing. Oh, dear me, I'm laughin', and it seems wicked to laugh
a time like this. And when I think of you goin', Albert, I--I . . .
but there, I promised Zelotes I wouldn't. . . . And they MAY not
take you. . . . But oh, of course they will, of course they
will! . . . I'm goin' to make you a chicken pie for dinner to-day;
I know how you like it. . . . If only they MIGHT reject you! . . .
But there, I said I wouldn't and I won't."
Rachel Ellis's opinion on the subject and her way of expressing
that opinion were distinctly her own. Albert arose early in the
morning following the announcement of his decision to enter the
service. He had not slept well; his mind was too busy with
problems and speculations to resign itself to sleep. He had tossed
about until dawn and had then risen and sat down at the table in
his bedroom to write Madeline of the step he had determined to
take. He had not written her while he was considering that step.
He felt, somehow, that he alone with no pressure from without
should make the decision. Now that it was made, and irrevocably
made, she must of course be told. Telling her, however, was not an
easy task. He was sure she would agree that he had done the right
thing, the only thing, but--
"It is going to be very hard for you, dear," he wrote, heedless of
the fact that Mrs. Fosdick's censorious eye would see and condemn
the "dear." "It is going to be hard for both of us. But I am sure
you will feel as I do that I COULDN'T do anything else. I am young
and strong and fit and I am an American. I MUST go. You see it,
don't you, Madeline. I can hardly wait until your letter comes
telling me that you feel I did just the thing you would wish me to
He hesitated and then, even more regardless of the censor, added
the quotation which countless young lovers were finding so apt just
"I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more."
So when, fresh from the intimacy of this communication with his
adored and with the letter in his hand, he entered the sitting-room
at that early hour he was not overjoyed to find the housekeeper
there ahead of him. And her first sentence showed that she had
been awaiting his coming.
"Good mornin', Albert," she said. "I heard you stirrin' 'round up
in your room and I came down here so's you and I could talk
together for a minute without anybody's disturbin' us. . . .
Humph! I guess likely you didn't sleep any too well last night,
Albert shook his head. "Not too well, Rachel," he replied.
"I shouldn't wonder. Well, I doubt if there was too much sleep
anywheres in this house last night. So you're really goin' to war,
are you, Albert?"
"Yes. If the war will let me I certainly am."
"Dear, dear! . . . Well, I--I think it's what Robert Penfold would
have done if he was in your place. I've been goin' over it and
goin' over it half the night, myself, and I've come to that
conclusion. It's goin' to be awful hard on your grandma and
grandfather and me and Labe, all us folks here at home, but I guess
it's the thing you'd ought to do, the Penfold kind of thing."
Albert smiled. "I'm glad you think so, Rachel," he said.
"Well, I do, and if I'm goin' to tell the truth I might as well say
I tried terrible hard to find some good reasons for thinkin'
'twan't. I did SO! But the only good reasons I could scare up for
makin' you stay to home was because home was safe and comf'table
and where you was goin' wan't. And that kind of reasonin' might do
fust-rate for a passel of clams out on the flats, but it wouldn't
be much credit to decent, self-respectin' humans. When General
Rolleson came to that island and found his daughter and Robert
Penfold livin' there in that house made out of pearls he'd built
for her-- Wan't that him all over! Another man, the common run
of man, would have been satisfied to build her a house out of wood
and lucky to get that, but no, nothin' would do him but pearls,
and if they'd have been di'monds he'd have been better satisfied.
Well. . . . Where was I? . . . Oh yes! When General Rolleson came
there and says to his daughter, 'Helen, you come home along of me,'
and she says, 'No, I shan't leave him,' meanin' Robert Penfold, you
understand-- When she says that did Robert Penfold say, 'That's the
talk! Put that in your pipe, old man, and smoke it?' No, SIR, he
didn't! He says, 'Helen, you go straight home along with your pa
and work like fury till you find out who forged that note and laid
it onto me. You find that out,' he says, 'and then you can come
fetch me and not afore.' That's the kind of man HE was! And they
sailed off and left him behind."
Albert shook his head. He had heard only about half of the
housekeeper's story. "Pretty rough on him, I should say," he
"I GUESS 'twas rough on him, poor thing! But 'twas his duty and so
he done it. It was rough on Helen, havin' to go and leave him, but
'twas rougher still on him. It's always roughest, seems to me,"
she added, "on the ones that's left behind. Those that go have
somethin' to take up their minds and keep 'em from thinkin' too
much. The ones that stay to home don't have much to do EXCEPT
think. I hope you don't get the notion that I feel your part of it
is easy, Al. Only a poor, crazy idiot could read the papers these
days and feel that any part of this war was EASY! It's awful, but--
but it WILL keep you too busy to think, maybe."
"I shouldn't wonder, Rachel. I understand what you mean."
"We're all goin' to miss you, Albert. This house is goin' to be
a pretty lonesome place, I cal'late. Your grandma'll miss you
dreadful and so will I, but--but I have a notion that your
grandpa's goin' to miss you more'n anybody else."
He shook his head. "Oh, not as much as all that, Rachel," he said.
"He and I have been getting on much better than we used to and we