CAPE COD STORIES
Also Published Under The Title Of "The Old Home House"
By Joseph C. Lincoln
TWO PAIRS OF SHOES
THE COUNT AND THE MANAGER
THE SOUTH SHORE WEATHER BUREAU
THE DOG STAR
THE MARE AND THE MOTOR
THE MARK ON THE DOOR
THE LOVE OF LOBELIA 'ANKINS
THE MEANNESS OF ROSY
HIS NATIVE HEATH
THE "OLD HOME HOUSE"
TWO PAIRS OF SHOES
I don't exactly know why Cap'n Jonadab and me went to the post-office that night; we wa'n't expecting any mail, that's sartin. I guess likely we done it for the reason the feller that tumbled overboard went to the bottom—'twas the handiest place TO go.
Anyway we was there, and I was propping up the stove with my feet and holding down a chair with the rest of me, when Jonadab heaves alongside flying distress signals. He had an envelope in his starboard mitten, and, coming to anchor with a flop in the next chair, sets shifting the thing from one hand to the other as if it 'twas red hot.
I watched this performance for a spell, waiting for him to say something, but he didn't, so I hailed, kind of sarcastic, and says: "What you doing—playing solitaire? Which hand's ahead?"
He kind of woke up then, and passes the envelope over to me.
"Barzilla," he says, "what in time do you s'pose that is?"
'Twas a queer looking envelope, more'n the average length fore and aft, but kind of scant in the beam. There was a puddle of red sealing wax on the back of it with a "D" in the middle, and up in one corner was a kind of picture thing in colors, with some printing in a foreign language underneath it. I b'lieve 'twas what they call a "coat-of-arms," but it looked more like a patchwork comforter than it did like any coat ever I see. The envelope was addressed to "Captain Jonadab Wixon, Orham, Mass."
I took my turn at twisting the thing around, and then I hands it back to Jonadab.
"I pass," I says. "Where'd you get it?"
"'Twas in my box," says he. "Must have come in to-night's mail."
I didn't know the mail was sorted, but when he says that I got up and went over and unlocked my box, just to show that I hadn't forgot how, and I swan to man if there wa'n't another envelope, just like Jonadab's, except that 'twas addressed to "Barzilla Wingate."
"Humph!" says I, coming back to the stove; "you ain't the only one that's heard from the Prince of Wales. Look here!"
He was the most surprised man, but one, on the Cape: I was the one. We couldn't make head nor tail of the business, and set there comparing the envelopes, and wondering who on earth had sent 'em. Pretty soon "Ily" Tucker heads over towards our moorings, and says he:
"What's troubling the ancient mariners?" he says.
"Barzilla and me's got a couple of letters," says Cap'n Jonadab; "and we was wondering who they was from."
Tucker leaned away down—he's always suffering from a rush of funniness to the face—and he whispers, awful solemn: "For heaven's sake, whatever you do, don't open 'em. You might find out." Then he threw off his main-hatch and "haw-hawed" like a loon.
To tell you the truth, we hadn't thought of opening 'em—not yet—so that was kind of one on us, as you might say. But Jonadab ain't so slow but he can catch up with a hearse if the horses stop to drink, and he comes back quick.
"Ily," he says, looking troubled, "you ought to sew reef-points on your mouth. 'Tain't safe to open the whole of it on a windy night like this. First thing you know you'll carry away the top of your head."
Well, we felt consider'ble better after that—having held our own on the tack, so to speak—and we walked out of the post-office and up to my room in the Travellers' Rest, where we could be alone. Then we opened up the envelopes, both at the same time. Inside of each of 'em was another envelope, slick and smooth as a mack'rel's back, and inside of THAT was a letter, printed, but looking like the kind of writing that used to be in the copybook at school. It said that Ebenezer Dillaway begged the honor of our presence at the marriage of his daughter, Belle, to Peter Theodosius Brown, at Dillamead House, Cashmere-on-the-Hudson, February three, nineteen hundred and so forth.
We were surprised, of course, and pleased in one way, but in another we wa'n't real tickled to death. You see, 'twas a good while sence Jonadab and me had been to a wedding, and we know there'd be mostly young folks there and a good many big-bugs, we presumed likely, and 'twas going to cost consider'ble to get rigged—not to mention the price of passage, and one thing a' 'nother. But Ebenezer had took the trouble to write us, and so we felt 'twas our duty not to disappoint him, and especially Peter, who had done so much for us, managing the Old Home House.
The Old Home House was our summer hotel at Wellmouth Port. How me and Jonadab come to be in the summer boarding trade is another story and it's too long to tell now. We never would have been in it, anyway, I cal'late, if it hadn't been for Peter. He made a howling success of our first season and likewise helped himself along by getting engaged to the star boarder, rich old Dillaway's daughter—Ebenezer Dillaway, of the Consolidated Cash Stores.
Well, we see 'twas our duty to go, so we went. I had a new Sunday cutaway and light pants to go with it, so I figgered that I was pretty well found, but Cap'n Jonadab had to pry himself loose from considerable money, and every cent hurt as if 'twas nailed on. Then he had chilblains that winter, and all the way over in the Fall River boat he was fuming about them chilblains, and adding up on a piece of paper how much cash he'd spent.
We struck Cashmere-on-the-Hudson about three o'clock on the afternoon of the day of the wedding. 'Twas a little country kind of a town, smaller by a good deal than Orham, and so we cal'lated that perhaps after all, the affair wouldn't be so everlasting tony. But when we hove in sight of Dillamead—Ebenezer's place—we shortened sail and pretty nigh drew out of the race. 'Twas up on a high bank over the river, and the house itself was bigger than four Old Homes spliced together. It had a fair-sized township around it in the shape of land, with a high stone wall for trimming on the edges. There was trees, and places for flower-beds in summer, and the land knows what. We see right off that this was the real Cashmere-on-the-Hudson; the village folks were stranded on the flats—old Dillaway filled the whole ship channel.
"Well," I says to Jonadab, "it looks to me as if we was getting out of soundings. What do you say to coming about and making a quick run for Orham again?"
But he wouldn't hear of it. "S'pose I've spent all that money on duds for nothing?" he says. "No, sir, by thunder! I ain't scared of Peter Brown, nor her that's going to be his wife; and I ain't scared of Ebenezer neither; no matter if he does live in the Manufacturers' Building, with two or three thousand fathom of front fence," he says.
Some years ago Jonadab got reckless and went on a cut-rate excursion to the World's Fair out in Chicago, and ever sence then he's been comparing things with the "Manufacturers' Building" or the "Palace of Agriculture" or "Streets of Cairo," or some other outlandish place.
"All right," says I. "Darn the torpedoes! Keep her as she is! You can fire when ready, Gridley!"
So we sot sail for what we jedged was Ebenezer's front-gate, and just as we made it, a man comes whistling round the bend in the path, and I'm blessed if 'twa'n't Peter T. Brown. He was rigged to kill, as usual, only more so.
"Hello, Peter!" I says. "Here we be."
If ever a feller was surprised, Brown was that feller. He looked like he'd struck a rock where there was deep water on the chart.
"Well, I'll be ——" he begun, and then stopped. "What in the ——" he commenced again, and again his breath died out. Fin'lly he says: "Is this you, or had I better quit and try another pipe?"
We told him 'twas us, and it seemed to me that he wa'n't nigh so tickled as he'd ought to have been. When he found we'd come to the wedding, 'count of Ebenezer sending us word, he didn't say nothing for a minute or so.
"Of course, we HAD to come," says Jonadab. "We felt 'twouldn't be right to disapp'int Mr. Dillaway."
Peter kind of twisted his mouth. "That's so," he says. "It'll be worth more'n a box of diamonds to him. Do him more good than joining a 'don't worry club.' Well, come on up to the house and ease his mind."
So we done it, and Ebenezer acted even more surprised than Peter.
I can't tell you anything about that house, nor the fixings in it; it beat me a mile—that house did. We had a room somewheres up on the hurricane deck, with brass bunks and plush carpets and crocheted curtains and electric lights. I swan there was looking glasses in every corner—big ones, man's size. I remember Cap'n Jonadab hollering to me that night when he was getting ready to turn in:
"For the land's sake, Barzilla!" says he, "turn out them lights, will you? I ain't over'n' above bashful, but them looking glasses make me feel's if I was undressing along with all hands and the cook."
The house was full of comp'ny, and more kept coming all the time. Swells! don't talk! We felt 'bout as much at home as a cow in a dory, but we was there 'cause Ebenezer had asked us to be there, so we kept on the course and didn't signal for help. Travelling through the rooms down stairs where the folks was, was a good deal like dodging icebergs up on the Banks, but one or two noticed us enough to dip the colors, and one was real sociable. He was a kind of slow-spoken city-feller, dressed as if his clothes was poured over him hot and then left to cool. His last name had a splice in the middle of it—'twas Catesby-Stuart. Everybody—that is, most everybody—called him "Phil."
Well, sir, Phil cottoned to Jonadab and me right away. He'd get us, one on each wing, and go through that house asking questions. He pumped me and Jonadab dry about how we come to be there, and told us more yarns than a few 'bout Dillaway, and how rich he was. I remember he said that he only wished he had the keys to the cellar so he could show us the money-bins. Said Ebenezer was so just—well, rotten with money, as you might say, that he kept it in bins down cellar, same as poor folks kept coal—gold in one bin, silver half-dollars in another, quarters in another, and so on. When he needed any, he'd say to a servant: "James, fetch me up a hod of change." This was only one of the fish yarns he told. They sounded kind of scaly to Jonadab and me, but if we hinted at such a thing, he'd pull himself together and say: "Fact, I assure you," in a way to freeze your vitals. He seemed like such a good feller that we didn't mind his telling a few big ones; we'd known good fellers afore that liked to lie—gunners and such like, they were mostly.
Somehow or 'nother Phil got Cap'n Jonadab talking "boat," and when Jonadab talks "boat" there ain't no stopping him. He's the smartest feller in a cat-boat that ever handled a tiller, and he's won more races than any man on the Cape, I cal'late. Phil asked him and me if we'd ever sailed on an ice-boat, and, when we said we hadn't he asks if we won't take a sail with him on the river next morning. We didn't want to put him to so much trouble on our account, but he said: "Not at all. Pleasure'll be all mine, I assure you." Well, 'twas his for a spell—but never mind that now.
He introduced us to quite a lot of the comp'ny—men mostly. He'd see a school of 'em in a corner, or under a palm tree or somewheres, and steer us over in that direction and make us known to all hands. Then he begin to show us off, so to speak, get Jonadab telling 'bout the boats he'd sailed, or something like it—and them fellers would laugh and holler, but Phil's face wouldn't shake out a reef: he looked solemn as a fun'ral all the time. Jonadab and me begun to think we was making a great hit. Well, we was, but not the way we thought. I remember one of the gang gets Phil to one side after a talk like this and whispers to him, laughing like fun. Phil says to him: "My dear boy, I've been to thousands of these things"—waving his flipper scornful around the premises—"and upon honor they've all been alike. Now that I've discovered something positively original, let me enjoy myself. The entertainment by the Heavenly Twins is only begun."
I didn't know what he meant then; I do now.
The marrying was done about eight o'clock and done with all the trimmings. All hands manned the yards in the best parlor, and Peter and Belle was hitched. Then they went away in a swell turnout—not like the derelict hacks we'd seen stranded by the Cashmere depot—and Jonadab pretty nigh took the driver's larboard ear off with a shoe Phil gave him to heave after 'em.
After the wedding the folks was sitting under the palms and bushes that was growing in tubs all over the house, and the stewards—there was enough of 'em to man a four-master—was carting 'round punch and frozen victuals. Everybody was togged up till Jonadab and me, in our new cutaways, felt like a couple of moulting blackbirds at a blue-jay camp-meeting. Ebenezer was so busy, flying 'round like a pullet with its head off, that he'd hardly spoke to us sence we landed, but Phil scarcely ever left us, so we wa'n't lonesome. Pretty soon he comes back from a beat into the next room, and he says:
"There's a lady here that's just dying to know you gentlemen. Her name's Granby. Tell her all about the Cape; she'll like it. And, by the way, my dear feller," he whispers to Jonadab "if you want to please her—er—mightily, congratulate her upon her boy's success in the laundry business. You understand," he says, winking; "only son and self-made man, don't you know."
Mrs. Granby was roosting all by herself on a sofy in the parlor. She was fleshy, but terrible stiff and proud, and when she moved the diamonds on her shook till her head and neck looked like one of them "set pieces" at the Fourth of July fireworks. She was deef, too, and used an ear-trumpet pretty nigh as big as a steamer's ventilator.
Maybe she was "dying to know us," but she didn't have a fit trying to show it. Me and Jonadab felt we'd ought to be sociable, and so we set, one on each side of her on the sofy, and bellered: "How d'ye do?" and "Fine day, ain't it?" into that ear-trumpet. She didn't say much, but she'd couple on the trumpet and turn to whichever one of us had hailed, heeling over to that side as if her ballast had shifted. She acted to me kind of uneasy, but everybody that come into that parlor—and they kept piling in all the time—looked more'n middling joyful. They kept pretty quiet, too, so that every yell we let out echoed, as you might say, all 'round. I begun to git shaky at the knees, as if I was preaching to a big congregation.
After a spell, Jonadab not being able to think of anything more to say, and remembering Phil's orders, leans over and whoops into the trumpet.
"I'm real glad your son done so well with his laundry," he says.
Well, sir, Phil had give us to understand that them congratulations would make a hit, and they done it. The women 'round the room turned red and some of 'em covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs. The men looked glad and set up and took notice. Ebenezer wa'n't in the room—which was a mercy—but your old mess-mate, Catesby-Stuart, looked solemn as ever and never turned a hair.
But as for old lady Granby—whew! She got redder'n she was afore, which was a miracle, pretty nigh. She couldn't speak for a minute—just cackled like a hen. Then she busts out with: "How dare you!" and flounces out of that room like a hurricane. And it was still as could be for a minute, and then two or three of the girls begun to squeal and giggle behind their handkerchiefs.
Jonadab and me went away, too. We didn't flounce any to speak of. I guess a "sneak" would come nearer to telling how we quit. I see the cap'n heading for the stairs and I fell into his wake. Nobody said good-night, and we didn't wait to give 'em a chance.
'Course we knew we'd put our foot in it somewheres, but we didn't see just how. Even then we wa'n't really onto Phil's game. You see, when a green city chap comes to the Old Home House—and the land knows there's freaks enough do come—we always try to make things pleasant for him, and the last thing we'd think of was making him a show afore folks. So we couldn't b'lieve even now 'twas done a-purpose. But we was suspicious, a little.
"Barzilla," says Jonadab, getting ready to turn in, "'tain't possible that that feller with the sprained last name is having fun with us, is it?"
"Jonadab," says I, "I've been wondering that myself."
And we wondered for an hour, and finally decided to wait a while and say nothing till we could ask Ebenezer. And the next morning one of the stewards comes up to our room with some coffee and grub, and says that Mr. Catesby-Stuart requested the pleasure of our comp'ny on a afore-breakfast ice-boat sail, and would meet us at the pier in half an hour. They didn't have breakfast at Ebenezer's till pretty close to dinner time, eleven o'clock, so we had time enough for quite a trip.
Phil and the ice-boat met us on time. I s'pose it 'twas style, but, if I hadn't known I'd have swore he'd run short of duds and had dressed up in the bed-clothes. I felt of his coat when he wa'n't noticing, and if it wa'n't made out of a blanket then I never slept under one. And it made me think of my granddad to see what he had on his head—a reg'lar nightcap, tassel and all. Phil said he was sorry we turned in so early the night afore. Said he'd planned to entertain us all the evening. We didn't hurrah much at this—being suspicious, as I said—and he changed the subject to ice-boats.
That ice-boat was a bird. I cal'lated to know a boat when I sighted one, but a flat-iron on skates was something bran-new. I didn't think much of it, and I could see that Jonadab didn't neither.
But in about three shakes of a lamb's tail I was ready to take it all back and say I never said it. I done enough praying in the next half hour to square up for every Friday night meeting I'd missed sence I was a boy. Phil got sail onto her, and we moved out kind of slow.
"Now, then," says he, "we'll take a little jaunt up the river. 'Course this isn't like one of your Cape Cod cats, but still—"
And then I dug my finger nails into the deck and commenced: "Now I lay me." Talk about going! 'Twas "F-s-s-s-t!" and we was a mile from home. "Bu-z-z-z!" and we was just getting ready to climb a bank; but 'fore she nosed the shore Phil would put the helm over and we'd whirl round like a windmill, with me and Jonadab biting the planking, and hanging on for dear life, and my heart, that had been up in my mouth knocking the soles of my boots off. And Cap'n Catesby-Stuart would grin, and drawl: "'Course, this ain't like a Orham cat-boat, but she does fairly well—er—fairly. Now, for instance, how does this strike you?"
It struck us—I don't think any got away. I expected every minute to land in the hereafter, and it got so that the prospect looked kind of inviting, if only to get somewheres where 'twas warm. That February wind went in at the top of my stiff hat and whizzed out through the legs of my thin Sunday pants till I felt for all the world like the ventilating pipe on an ice-chest. I could see why Phil was wearing the bed-clothes; what I was suffering for just then was a feather mattress on each side of me.
Well, me and Jonadab was "it" for quite a spell. Phil had all the fun, and I guess he enjoyed it. If he'd stopped right then, when the fishing was good, I cal'late he'd have fetched port with a full hold; but no, he had to rub it in, so to speak, and that's where he slopped over. You know how 'tis when you're eating mince-pie—it's the "one more slice" that fetches the nightmare. Phil stopped to get that slice.
He kept whizzing up and down that river till Jonadab and me kind of got over our variousness. We could manage to get along without spreading out like porous plasters, and could set up for a minute or so on a stretch. And twa'n't necessary for us to hold a special religious service every time the flat-iron come about. Altogether, we was in that condition where the doctor might have held out some hopes.
And, in spite of the cold, we was noticing how Phil was sailing that three-cornered sneak-box—noticing and criticising; at least, I was, and Cap'n Jonadab, being, as I've said, the best skipper of small craft from Provincetown to Cohasset Narrows, must have had some ideas on the subject. Your old chum, Catesby-Stuart, thought he was mast-high so fur's sailing was concerned, anybody could see that, but he had something to larn. He wasn't beginning to get out all there was in that ice-boat. And just then along comes another feller in the same kind of hooker and gives us a hail. There was two other chaps on the boat with him.
"Hello, Phil!" he yells, rounding his flat-iron into the wind abreast of ours and bobbing his night-cap. "I hoped you might be out. Are you game for a race?"
"Archie," answers our skipper, solemn as a setting hen, "permit me to introduce to you Cap'n Jonadab Wixon and Admiral Barzilla Wingate, of Orham, on the Cape."
I wasn't expecting to fly an admiral's pennant quite so quick, but I managed to shake out through my teeth—they was chattering like a box of dice—that I was glad to know the feller. Jonadab, he rattled loose something similar.
"The Cap'n and the Admiral," says Phil, "having sailed the raging main for lo! these many years, are now favoring me with their advice concerning the navigation of ice-yachts. Archie, if you're willing to enter against such a handicap of brains and barnacles, I'll race you on a beat up to the point yonder, then on the ten mile run afore the wind to the buoy opposite the Club, and back to the cove by Dillaway's. And we'll make it a case of wine. Is it a go?"
Archie, he laughed and said it was, and, all at once, the race was on.
Now, Phil had lied when he said we was "favoring" him with advice, 'cause we hadn't said a word; but that beat up to the point wa'n't half over afore Jonadab and me was dying to tell him a few things. He handled that boat like a lobster. Archie gained on every tack and come about for the run a full minute afore us.
And on that run afore the wind 'twas worse than ever. The way Phil see-sawed that piece of pie back and forth over the river was a sin and shame. He could have slacked off his mainsail and headed dead for the buoy, but no, he jiggled around like an old woman crossing the road ahead of a funeral.
Cap'n Jonadab was on edge. Racing was where he lived, as you might say, and he fidgeted like he was setting on a pin-cushion. By and by he snaps out:
"Keep her off! Keep her off afore the wind! Can't you see where you're going?"
Phil looked at him as if he was a graven image, and all the answer he made was; "Be calm, Barnacles, be calm!"
But pretty soon I couldn't stand it no longer, and I busts out with: "Keep her off, Mr. What's-your name! For the Lord's sake, keep her off! He'll beat the life out of you!"
And all the good that done was for me to get a stare that was colder than the wind, if such a thing's possible.
But Jonadab got fidgetyer every minute, and when we come out into the broadest part of the river, within a little ways of the buoy, he couldn't stand it no longer.
"You're spilling half the wind!" he yells. "Pint' her for the buoy or else you'll be licked to death! Jibe her so's she gits it full. Jibe her, you lubber! Don't you know how? Here! let me show you!"
And the next thing I knew he fetched a hop like a frog, shoved Phil out of the way, grabbed the tiller, and jammed it over.
She jibed—oh, yes, she jibed! If anybody says she didn't you send 'em to me. I give you my word that that flat-iron jibed twice—once for practice, I jedge, and then for business. She commenced by twisting and squirming like an eel. I jest had sense enough to clamp my mittens onto the little brass rail by the stern and hold on; then she jibed the second time. She stood up on two legs, the boom come over with a slat that pretty nigh took the mast with it, and the whole shebang whirled around as if it had forgot something. I have a foggy kind of remembrance of locking my mitten clamps fast onto that rail while the rest of me streamed out in the air like a burgee. Next thing I knew we was scooting back towards Dillaway's, with the sail catching every ounce that was blowing. Jonadab was braced across the tiller, and there, behind us, was the Honorable Philip Catesby-Stuart, flat on his back, with his blanket legs looking like a pair of compasses, and skimming in whirligigs over the slick ice towards Albany. HE hadn't had nothing to hold onto, you understand. Well, if I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have b'lieved that a human being could spin so long or travel so fast on his back. His legs made a kind of smoky circle in the air over him, and he'd got such a start I thought he'd NEVER STOP a-going. He come to a place where some snow had melted in the sun and there was a pond, as you might say, on the ice, and he went through that, heaving spray like one of them circular lawn sprinklers the summer folks have. He'd have been as pretty as a fountain, if we'd had time to stop and look at him.
"For the land sakes, heave to!" I yelled, soon's I could get my breath. "You've spilled the skipper!"
"Skipper be durned!" howls Jonadab, squeezing the tiller and keeping on the course; "We'll come back for him by and by. It's our business to win this race."
And, by ginger! we DID win it. The way Jonadab coaxed that cocked hat on runners over the ice was pretty—yes, sir, pretty! He nipped her close enough to the wind'ard, and he took advantage of every single chance. He always COULD sail; I'll say that for him. We walked up on Archie like he'd set down to rest, and passed him afore he was within a half mile of home. We run up abreast of Dillaway's, putting on all the fancy frills of a liner coming into port, and there was Ebenezer and a whole crowd of wedding company down by the landing.
"Gosh!" says Jonadab, tugging at his whiskers: "'Twas Cape Cod against New York that time, and you can't beat the Cape when it comes to getting over water, not even if the water's froze. Hey, Barzilla?"
Ebenezer came hopping over the ice towards us. He looked some surprised.
"Where's Phil?" he says.
Now, I'd clean forgot Phil and I guess Jonadab had, by the way he colored up.
"Phil?" says he. "Phil? Oh, yes! We left him up the road a piece. Maybe we'd better go after him now."
But old Dillaway had something to say.
"Cap'n," he says, looking round to make sure none of the comp'ny was follering him out to the ice-boat. "I've wanted to speak to you afore, but I haven't had the chance. You mustn't b'lieve too much of what Mr. Catesby-Stuart says, nor you mustn't always do just what he suggests. You see," he says, "he's a dreadful practical joker."
"Yes," says Jonadab, beginning to look sick. I didn't say nothing, but I guess I looked the same way.
"Yes," said Ebenezer, kind of uneasy like; "Now, in that matter of Mrs. Granby. I s'pose Phil put you up to asking her about her son's laundry. Yes? Well, I thought so. You see, the fact is, her boy is a broker down in Wall Street, and he's been caught making some of what they call 'wash sales' of stock. It's against the rules of the Exchange to do that, and the papers have been full of the row. You can see," says Dillaway, "how the laundry question kind of stirred the old lady up. But, Lord! it must have been funny," and he commenced to grin.
I looked at Jonadab, and he looked at me. I thought of Marm Granby, and her being "dying to know us," and I thought of the lies about the "hod of change" and all the rest, and I give you my word I didn't grin, not enough to show my wisdom teeth, anyhow. A crack in the ice an inch wide would have held me, with room to spare; I know that.
"Hum!" grunts Jonadab, kind of dry and bitter, as if he'd been taking wormwood tea; "I see. He's been having a good time making durn fools out of us."
"Well," says Ebenezer, "not exactly that, p'raps, but—"
And then along comes Archie and his crowd in the other ice-boat.
"Hi!" he yells. "Who sailed that boat of yours? He knew his business all right. I never saw anything better. Phil—why, where IS Phil?"
I answered him. "Phil got out when we jibed," I says.
"Was THAT Phil?" he hollers, and then the three of 'em just roared.
"Oh, by Jove, you know!" says Archie, "that's the funniest thing I ever saw. And on Phil, too! He'll never hear the last of it at the club—hey, boys?" And then they just bellered and laughed again.
When they'd gone, Jonadab turned to Ebenezer and he says: "That taking us out on this boat was another case of having fun with the countrymen. Hey?"
"I guess so," says Dillaway. "I b'lieve he told one of the guests that he was going to put Cape Cod on ice this morning."
I looked away up the river where a little black speck was just getting to shore. And I thought of how chilly the wind was out there, and how that ice-water must have felt, and what a long ways 'twas from home. And then I smiled, slow and wide; there was a barge load of joy in every half inch of that smile.
"It's a cold day when Phil loses a chance for a joke," says Ebenezer.
"'Tain't exactly what you'd call summery just now," I says. And we hauled down sail, run the ice-boat up to the wharf, and went up to our room to pack our extension cases for the next train.
"You see," says Jonadab, putting in his other shirt, "it's easy enough to get the best of Cape folks on wash sales and lying, but when it comes to boats that's a different pair of shoes."
"I guess Phil'll agree with you," I says.
THE COUNT AND THE MANAGER
The way we got into the hotel business in the first place come around like this: Me and Cap'n Jonadab went down to Wellmouth Port one day 'long in March to look at some property he'd had left him. Jonadab's Aunt Sophrony had moved kind of sudden from that village to Beulah Land—they're a good ways apart, too—and Cap'n Jonadab had come in for the old farm, he being the only near relative.
When you go to Wellmouth Port you get off the cars at Wellmouth Center and then take Labe Bearse's barge and ride four miles; and then, if the horse don't take a notion to lay down in the road and go to sleep, or a wheel don't come off or some other surprise party ain't sprung on you, you come to a place where there's a Baptist chapel that needs painting, and a little two-for-a-cent store that needs trade, and two or three houses that need building over, and any Lord's quantity of scrub pines and beach grass and sand. Then you take Labe's word for it that you've got to Wellmouth Port and get out of the barge and try to remember you're a church member.
Well, Aunt Sophrony's house was a mile or more from the place where the barge stopped, and Jonadab and me, we hoofed it up there. We bought some cheese and crackers and canned things at the store, 'cause we expected to stay overnight in the house, and knew there wasn't no other way of getting provender.
We got there after a spell and set down on the big piazza with our souls full of gratitude and our boots full of sand. Great, big, old-fashioned house with fourteen big bedrooms in it, big barn, sheds, and one thing or 'nother, and perched right on top of a hill with five or six acres of ground 'round it. And how the March wind did whoop in off the sea and howl and screech lonesomeness through the pine trees! You take it in the middle of the night, with the shutters rattling and the old joists a-creaking and Jonadab snoring like a chap sawing hollow logs, and if it wan't joy then my name ain't Barzilla Wingate. I don't wonder Aunt Sophrony died. I'd have died 'long afore she did if I knew I was checked plumb through to perdition. There'd be some company where I was going, anyhow.
The next morning after ballasting up with the truck we'd bought at the store—the feller 'most keeled over when he found we was going to pay cash for it—we went out on the piazza again, and looked at the breakers and the pine trees and the sand, and held our hats on with both hands.
"Jonadab," says I, "what'll you take for your heirloom?"
"Well," he says, "Barzilla, the way I feel now, I think I'd take a return ticket to Orham and be afraid of being took up for swindling at that."
Neither of us says nothing more for a spell, and, first thing you know, we heard a carriage rattling somewhere up the road. I was shipwrecked once and spent two days in a boat looking for a sail. When I heard that rattling I felt just the way I done when I sighted the ship that picked us up.
"Judas!" says Jonadab, "there's somebody COMING!"
We jumped out of our chairs and put for the corner of the house. There WAS somebody coming—a feller in a buggy, and he hitched his horse to the front fence and come whistling up the walk.
He was a tall chap, with a smooth face, kind of sharp and knowing, and with a stiff hat set just a little on one side. His clothes was new and about a week ahead of up-to-date, his shoes shined till they lit up the lower half of his legs, and his pants was creased so's you could mow with 'em. Cool and slick! Say! in the middle of that deadliness and compared to Jonadab and me, he looked like a bird of Paradise in a coop of moulting pullets.
"Cap'n Wixon?" he says to me, sticking out a gloved flipper.
"Not guilty," says I. "There's the skipper. My name's Wingate."
"Glad to have the pleasure, Mr. Wingate," he says. "Cap'n Wixon, yours truly."
We shook hands, and he took each of us by the arm and piloted us back to the piazza, like a tug with a couple of coal barges. He pulled up a chair, crossed his legs on the rail, reached into the for'ard hatch of his coat and brought out a cigar case.
"Smoke up," he says. We done it—I holding my hat to shut off the wind, while Jonadab used up two cards of matches getting the first light. When we got the cigars to going finally, the feller says:
"My name's Brown—Peter T. Brown. I read about your falling heir to this estate, Cap'n Wixon, in a New Bedford paper. I happened to be in New Bedford then, representing the John B. Wilkins Unparalleled All Star Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ten Nights in a Bar-room Company. It isn't my reg'lar line, the show bus'ness, but it produced the necessary 'ham and' every day and the excelsior sleep inviter every night, so—but never mind that. Soon as I read the paper I came right down to look at the property. Having rubbered, back I go to Orham to see you. Your handsome and talented daughter says you are over here. That'll be about all—here I am. Now, then, listen to this."
He went under his hatches again, rousted out a sheet of paper, unfolded it and read something like this—I know it by heart:
"The great sea leaps and splashes before you as it leaped and splashed in the old boyhood days. The sea wind sings to you as it sang of old. The old dreams come back to you, the dreams you dreamed as you slumbered upon the cornhusk mattress in the clean, sweet little chamber of the old home. Forgotten are the cares of business, the scramble for money, the ruthless hunt for fame. Here are perfect rest and perfect peace.
"Now what place would you say I was describing?" says the feller.
"Heaven," says Jonadab, looking up, reverent like.
You never see a body more disgusted than Brown.
"Get out!" he snaps. "Do I look like the advance agent of Glory? Listen to this one."
He unfurls another sheet of paper, and goes off on a tack about like this:
"The old home! You who sit in your luxurious apartments, attended by your liveried servants, eating the costly dishes that bring you dyspepsia and kindred evils, what would you give to go back once more to the simple, cleanly living of the old house in the country? The old home, where the nights were cool and refreshing, the sleep deep and sound; where the huckleberry pies that mother fashioned were swimming in fragrant juice, where the shells of the clams for the chowder were snow white and the chowder itself a triumph; where there were no voices but those of the wind and sea; no—"
"Don't!" busts out Jonadab. "Don't! I can't stand it!"
He was mopping his eyes with his red bandanner. I was consider'ble shook up myself. The dear land knows we was more used to huckleberry pies and clam chowder than we was to liveried servants and costly dishes, but there was something in the way that feller read off that slush that just worked the pump handle. A hog would have cried; I know I couldn't help it. As for Peter T. Brown, he fairly crowed.
"It gets you!" he says. "I knew it would. And it'll get a heap of others, too. Well, we can't send 'em back to the old home, but we can trot the old home to them, or a mighty good imitation of it. Here it is; right here!"
And he waves his hand up toward Aunt Sophrony's cast-off palace.
Cap'n Jonadab set up straight and sputtered like a firecracker. A man hates to be fooled.
"Old home!" he snorts. "Old county jail, you mean!"
And then that Brown feller took his feet down off the rail, hitched his chair right in front of Jonadab and me and commenced to talk. And HOW he did talk! Say, he could talk a Hyannis fisherman into a missionary. I wish I could remember all he said; 'twould make a book as big as a dictionary, but 'twould be worth the trouble of writing it down. 'Fore he got through he talked a thousand dollars out of Cap'n Jonadab, and it takes a pretty hefty lecture to squeeze a quarter out of HIM. To make a long yarn short, this was his plan:
He proposed to turn Aunt Sophrony's wind plantation into a hotel for summer boarders. And it wan't going to be any worn-out, regulation kind of a summer hotel neither.
"Confound it, man!" he says, "they're sick of hot and cold water, elevators, bell wires with a nigger on the end, and all that. There's a raft of old codgers that call themselves 'self-made men'—meanin' that the Creator won't own 'em, and they take the responsibility themselves—that are always wishing they could go somewheres like the shacks where they lived when they were kids. They're always talking about it, and wishing they could go to the old home and rest. Rest! Why, say, there's as much rest to this place as there is sand, and there's enough of that to scour all the knives in creation."
"But 'twill cost so like the dickens to furnish it," I says.
"Furnish it!" says he. "Why, that's just it! It won't cost nothing to furnish it—nothing to speak of. I went through the house day before yesterday—crawled in the kitchen window—oh! it's all right, you can count the spoons—and there's eight of those bedrooms furnished just right, corded bedsteads, painted bureaus with glass knobs, 'God Bless Our Home' and Uncle Jeremiah's coffin plate on the wall, rag mats on the floor, and all the rest. All she needs is a little more of the same stuff, that I can buy 'round here for next to nothing—I used to buy for an auction room—and a little paint and fixings, and there she is. All I want from you folks is a little money—I'll chuck in two hundred and fifty myself—and you two can be proprietors and treasurers if you want to. But active manager and publicity man—that's yours cheerily, Peter Theodosius Brown!" And he slapped his plaid vest.
Well, he talked all the forenoon and all the way to Orham on the train and most of that night. And when he heaved anchor, Jonadab had agreed to put up a thousand and I was in for five hundred and Peter contributed two hundred and fifty and experience and nerve. And the "Old Home House" was off the ways.
And by the first of May 'twas open and ready for business, too. You never see such a driver as that feller Brown was. He had a new wide piazza built all 'round the main buildings, painted everything up fine, hired the three best women cooks in Wellmouth—and there's some good cooks on Cape Cod, too—and a half dozen chamber girls and waiters. He had some trouble getting corded beds and old bureaus for the empty rooms, but he got 'em finally. He bought the last bed of Beriah Burgess, up at East Harniss, and had quite a dicker getting it.
"He thought he ought to get five dollars for it," says Brown, telling Jonadab and me about it. "Said he hated to part with it because his grandmother died in it. I told him I couldn't see any good reason why I should pay more for a bed just because it had killed his grandmother, so we split up and called it three dollars. 'Twas too much money, but we had to have it."
And the advertisements! They was sent everywheres. Lots of 'em was what Peter called "reading notices," and them he mostly got for nothing, for he could talk an editor foolish same as he could anybody else. By the middle of April most of our money was gone, but every room in the house was let and we had applications coming by the pailful.
And the folks that come had money, too—they had to have to pay Brown's rates. I always felt like a robber or a Standard Oil director every time I looked at the books. The most of 'em was rich folks—self-made men, just like Peter prophesied—and they brought their wives and daughters and slept on cornhusks and eat chowder and said 'twas great and just like old times. And they got the rest we advertised; we didn't cheat 'em on REST. By ten o'clock pretty nigh all hands was abed, and 'twas so still all you could hear was the breakers or the wind, or p'raps a groan coming from a window where some boarder had turned over in his sleep and a corncob in the mattress had raked him crossways.
There was one old chap that we'll call Dillaway—Ebenezer Dillaway. That wan't his name; his real one's too well known to tell. He runs the "Dillaway Combination Stores" that are all over the country. In them stores you can buy anything and buy it cheap—cheapness is Ebenezer's stronghold and job lots is his sheet anchor. He'll sell you a mowing machine and the grass seed to grow the hay to cut with it. He'll sell you a suit of clothes for two dollars and a quarter, and for ten cents more he'll sell you glue enough to stick it together again after you've worn it out in the rain. He'll sell you anything, and he's got cash enough to sink a ship.
He come to the "Old Home House" with his daughter, and he took to the place right away. Said 'twas for all the world like where he used to live when he was a boy. He liked the grub and he liked the cornhusks and he liked Brown. Brown had a way of stealing a thing and yet paying enough for it to square the law—that hit Ebenezer where he lived.
His daughter liked Brown, too, and 'twas easy enough to see that Brown liked her. She was a mighty pretty girl, the kind Peter called a "queen," and the active manager took to her like a cat to a fish. They was together more'n half the time, gitting up sailing parties, or playing croquet, or setting up on the "Lover's Nest," which was a kind of slab summer-house Brown had rigged up on the bluff where Aunt Sophrony's pig-pens used to be in the old days.
Me and Jonadab see how things was going, and we'd look at one another and wink and shake our heads when the pair'd go by together. But all that was afore the count come aboard.
We got our first letter from the count about the third of June. The writing was all over the plate like a biled dinner, and the English looked like it had been shook up in a bag, but it was signed with a nine fathom, toggle-jinted name that would give a pollparrot the lockjaw, and had the word "Count" on the bow of it.
You never see a feller happier than Peter T. Brown.
"Can he have rooms?" says Peter. "CAN he? Well, I should rise to elocute! He can have the best there is if yours truly has to bunk in the coop with the gladsome Plymouth Rock. That's what! He says he's a count and he'll be advertised as a count from this place to where rolls the Oregon."
And he was, too. The papers was full of how Count What's-his-Name was hanging out at the "Old Home House," and we got more letters from rich old women and pork-pickling money bags than you could shake a stick at. If you want to catch the free and equal nabob of a glorious republic, bait up with a little nobility and you'll have your salt wet in no time. We had to rig up rooms in the carriage house, and me and Jonadab slept in the haymow.
The count himself hove in sight on June fifteenth. He was a little, smoked Italian man with a pair of legs that would have been carried away in a gale, and a black mustache with waxed ends that you'd think would punch holes in the pillow case. His talk was like his writing, only worse, but from the time his big trunk with the foreign labels was carried upstairs, he was skipper and all hands of the "Old Home House."
And the funny part of it was that old man Dillaway was as much gone on him as the rest. For a self-made American article he was the worst gone on this machine-made importation that ever you see. I s'pose when you've got more money than you can spend for straight goods you nat'rally go in for buying curiosities; I can't see no other reason.
Anyway, from the minute the count come over the side it was "Good-by, Peter." The foreigner was first oar with the old man and general consort for the daughter. Whenever there was a sailing trip on or a spell of roosting in the Lover's Nest, Ebenezer would see that the count looked out for the "queen," while Brown stayed on the piazza and talked bargains with papa. It worried Peter—you could see that. He'd set in the barn with Jonadab and me, thinking, thinking, and all at once he'd bust out:
"Bless that Dago's heart! I haven't chummed in with the degenerate aristocracy much in my time, but somewhere or other I've seen that chap before. Now where—where—where?"
For the first two weeks the count paid his board like a major; then he let it slide. Jonadab and me was a little worried, but he was advertising us like fun, his photographs—snap shots by Peter—was getting into the papers, so we judged he was a good investment. But Peter got bluer and bluer.
One night we was in the setting room—me and Jonadab and the count and Ebenezer. The "queen" and the rest of the boarders was abed.
The count was spinning a pigeon English yarn of how he'd fought a duel with rapiers. When he'd finished, old Dillaway pounded his knee and sung out:
"That's bus'ness! That's the way to fix 'em! No lawsuits, no argument, no delays. Just take 'em out and punch holes in 'em. Did you hear that, Brown?"
"Yes, I heard it," says Peter, kind of absent-minded like. "Fighting with razors, wan't it?"
Now there wan't nothing to that—'twas just some of Brown's sarcastic spite getting the best of him—but I give you my word that the count turned yellow under his brown skin, kind of like mud rising from the bottom of a pond.
"What-a you say?" he says, bending for'ards.
"Mr. Brown was mistaken, that's all," says Dillaway; "he meant rapiers."
"But why-a razors—why-a razors?" says the count.
Now I was watching Brown's face, and all at once I see it light up like you'd turned a searchlight on it. He settled back in his chair and fetched a long breath as if he was satisfied. Then he grinned and begged pardon and talked a blue streak for the rest of the evening.
Next day he was the happiest thing in sight, and when Miss Dillaway and the count went Lover's Nesting he didn't seem to care a bit. All of a sudden he told Jonadab and me that he was going up to Boston that evening on bus'ness and wouldn't be back for a day or so. He wouldn't tell what the bus'ness was, either, but just whistled and laughed and sung, "Good-by, Susannah; don't you grieve for me," till train time.
He was back again three nights afterward, and he come right out to the barn without going nigh the house. He had another feller with him, a kind of shabby dressed Italian man with curly hair.
"Fellers," he says to me and Jonadab, "this is my friend, Mr. Macaroni; he's going to engineer the barber shop for a while."
Well, we'd just let our other barber go, so we didn't think anything of this, but when he said that his friend Spaghetti was going to stay in the barn for a day or so, and that we needn't mention that he was there, we thought that was funny.
But Peter done a lot of funny things the next day. One of 'em was to set a feller painting a side of the house by the count's window, that didn't need painting at all. And when the feller quit for the night, Brown told him to leave the ladder where 'twas.
That evening the same crowd was together in the setting room. Peter was as lively as a cricket, talking, talking, all the time. By and by he says:
"Oh, say, I want you to see the new barber. He can shave anything from a note to a porkypine. Come in here, Chianti!" he says, opening the door and calling out. "I want you."
And in come the new Italian man, smiling and bowing and looking "meek and lowly, sick and sore," as the song says.
Well, we laughed at Brown's talk and asked the Italian all kinds of fool questions and nobody noticed that the count wan't saying nothing. Pretty soon he gets up and says he guesses he'll go to his room, 'cause he feels sort of sick.
And I tell you he looked sick. He was yellower than he was the other night, and he walked like he hadn't got his sea legs on. Old Dillaway was terrible sorry and kept asking if there wan't something he could do, but the count put him off and went out.
"Now that's too bad!" says Brown. "Spaghetti, you needn't wait any longer."
So the other Italian went out, too.
And then Peter T. Brown turned loose and talked the way he done when me and Jonadab first met him. He just spread himself. He told of this bargain that he'd made and that sharp trade he had turned, while we set there and listened and laughed like a parsel of fools. And every time that Ebenezer'd get up to go to bed, Peter'd trot out a new yarn and he'd have to stop to listen to that. And it got to be eleven o'clock and then twelve and then one.
It was just about quarter past one and we was laughing our heads off at one of Brown's jokes, when out under the back window there was a jingle and a thump and a kind of groaning and wiggling noise.
"What on earth is that?" says Dillaway.
"I shouldn't be surprised," says Peter, cool as a mack'rel on ice, "if that was his royal highness, the count."
He took up the lamp and we all hurried outdoors and 'round the corner. And there, sure enough, was the count, sprawling on the ground with his leather satchel alongside of him, and his foot fast in a big steel trap that was hitched by a chain to the lower round of the ladder. He rared up on his hands when he see us and started to say something about an outrage.
"Oh, that's all right, your majesty," says Brown. "Hi, Chianti, come here a minute! Here's your old college chum, the count, been and put his foot in it."
When the new barber showed up the count never made another move, just wilted like a morning-glory after sunrise. But you never see a worse upset man than Ebenezer Dillaway.
"But what does this mean?" says he, kind of wild like. "Why don't you take that thing off his foot?"
"Oh," says Peter, "he's been elongating my pedal extremity for the last month or so; I don't see why I should kick if he pulls his own for a while. You see," he says, "it's this way:
"Ever since his grace condescended to lend the glory of his countenance to this humble roof," he says, "it's stuck in my mind that I'd seen the said countenance somewhere before. The other night when our conversation was trifling with the razor subject and the Grand Lama here"—that's the name he called the count—"was throwing in details about his carving his friends, it flashed across me where I'd seen it. About a couple of years ago I was selling the guileless rural druggists contiguous to Scranton, Pennsylvania, the tasty and happy combination called 'Dr. Bulger's Electric Liver Cure,' the same being a sort of electric light for shady livers, so to speak. I made my headquarters at Scranton, and, while there, my hair was shortened and my chin smoothed in a neat but gaudy barber shop, presided over by my friend Spaghetti here, and my equally valued friend the count."
"So," says Peter, smiling and cool as ever, "when it all came back to me, as the song says, I journeyed to Scranton accompanied by a photograph of his lordship. I was lucky enough to find Macaroni in the same old shop. He knew the count's classic profile at once. It seems his majesty had hit up the lottery a short time previous for a few hundred and had given up barbering. I suppose he'd read in the papers that the imitation count line was stylish and profitable and so he tried it on. It may be," says Brown, offhand, "that he thought he might marry some rich girl. There's some fool fathers, judging by the papers, that are willing to sell their daughters for the proper kind of tag on a package like him."
Old man Dillaway kind of made a face, as if he'd ate something that tasted bad, but he didn't speak.
"And so," says Peter, "Spaghetti and I came to the Old Home together, he to shave for twelve per, and I to set traps, etcetera. That's a good trap," he says, nodding, "I bought it in Boston. I had the teeth filed down, but the man that sold it said 'twould hold a horse. I left the ladder by his grace's window, thinking he might find it handy after he'd seen his friend of other days, particularly as the back door was locked.
"And now," goes on Brown, short and sharp, "let's talk business. Count," he says, "you are set back on the books about sixty odd for old home comforts. We'll cut off half of that and charge it to advertising. You draw well, as the man said about the pipe. But the other thirty you'll have to work out. You used to shave like a bird. I'll give you twelve dollars a week to chip in with Macaroni here and barber the boarders."
But Dillaway looked anxious.
"Look here, Brown," he says, "I wouldn't do that. I'll pay his board bill and his traveling expenses if he clears out this minute. It seems tough to set him shaving after he's been such a big gun around here."
I could see right off that the arrangement suited Brown first rate and was exactly what he'd been working for, but he pretended not to care much for it.
"Oh! I don't know," he says. "I'd rather be a sterling barber than a plated count. But anything to oblige you, Mr. Dillaway."
So the next day there was a nobleman missing at the "Old Home House," and all we had to remember him by was a trunk full of bricks. And Peter T. Brown and the "queen" was roosting in the Lover's Nest; and the new Italian was busy in the barber shop. He could shave, too. He shaved me without a pull, and my face ain't no plush sofy, neither.
And before the season was over the engagement was announced. Old Dillaway took it pretty well, considering. He liked Peter, and his having no money to speak of didn't count, because Ebenezer had enough for all hands. The old man said he'd been hoping for a son-in-law sharp enough to run the "Consolidated Stores" after he was gone, and it looked, he said, as if he'd found him.
THE SOUTH SHORE WEATHER BUREAU
"But," says Cap'n Jonadab and me together, jest as if we was "reading in concert" same as the youngsters do in school, "but," we says, "will it work? Will anybody pay for it?"
"Work?" says Peter T., with his fingers in the arm-holes of the double-breasted danger-signal that he called a vest, and with his cigar tilted up till you'd think 'twould set his hat-brim afire. "Work?" says he. "Well, maybe 'twouldn't work if the ordinary brand of canned lobster was running it, but with ME to jerk the lever and sound the loud timbrel—why, say! it's like stealing money from a blind cripple that's hard of hearing."
"Yes, I know," says Cap'n Jonadab. "But this ain't like starting the Old Home House. That was opening up a brand-new kind of hotel that nobody ever heard of before. This is peddling weather prophecies when there's the Gov'ment Weather Bureau running opposition—not to mention the Old Farmer's Almanac, and I don't know how many more," he says.
Brown took his patent leathers down off the rail of the piazza, give the ashes of his cigar a flip—he knocked 'em into my hat that was on the floor side of his chair, but he was too excited to mind—and he says:
"Confound it, man!" he says. "You can throw more cold water than a fire-engine. Old Farmer's Almanac! This isn't any 'About this time look out for snow' business. And it ain't any Washington cold slaw like 'Weather for New England and Rocky Mountains, Tuesday to Friday; cold to warm; well done on the edges with a rare streak in the middle, preceded or followed by rain, snow, or clearing. Wind, north to south, varying east and west.' No siree! this is TO-DAY'S weather for Cape Cod, served right off the griddle on a hot plate, and cooked by the chef at that. You don't realize what a regular dime-museum wonder that feller is," he says.
Well, I suppose we didn't. You see, Jonadab and me, like the rest of the folks around Wellmouth, had come to take Beriah Crocker and his weather notions as the regular thing, like baked beans on a Saturday night. Beriah, he—
But there! I've been sailing stern first. Let's get her headed right, if we ever expect to turn the first mark. You see, 'twas this way:
'Twas in the early part of May follering the year that the "Old Home House" was opened. We'd had the place all painted up, decks holy-stoned, bunks overhauled, and one thing or 'nother, and the "Old Home" was all taut and shipshape, ready for the crew—boarders, I mean. Passages was booked all through the summer and it looked as if our second season would be better'n our first.
Then the Dillaway girl—she was christened Lobelia, like her mother, but she'd painted it out and cruised under the name of Belle since the family got rich—she thought 'twould be nice to have what she called a "spring house-party" for her particular friends 'fore the regular season opened. So Peter—he being engaged at the time and consequent in that condition where he'd have put on horns and "mooed" if she'd give the order—he thought 'twould be nice, too, and for a week it was "all hands on deck!" getting ready for the "house-party."
Two days afore the thing was to go off the ways Brown gets a letter from Belle, and in it says she's invited a whole lot of folks from Chicago and New York and Boston and the land knows where, and that they've never been to the Cape and she wants to show 'em what a "quaint" place it is. "Can't you get," says she, "two or three delightful, queer, old 'longshore characters to be at work 'round the hotel? It'll give such a touch of local color," she says.
So out comes Peter with the letter.
"Barzilla," he says to me, "I want some characters. Know anybody that's a character?"
"Well," says I, "there's Nate Slocum over to Orham. He'd steal anything that wa'n't spiked down. He's about the toughest character I can think of, offhand, this way."
"Oh, thunder!" says Brown. "I don't want a crook; that wouldn't be any novelty to THIS crowd," he says. "What I'm after is an odd stick; a feller with pigeons in his loft. Not a lunatic, but jest a queer genius—little queerer than you and the Cap'n here."
After a while we got his drift, and I happened to think of Beriah and his chum, Eben Cobb. They lived in a little shanty over to Skakit P'int and got their living lobstering, and so on. Both of 'em had saved a few thousand dollars, but you couldn't get a cent of it without giving 'em ether, and they'd rather live like Portugees than white men any day, unless they was paid to change. Beriah's pet idee was foretelling what the weather was going to be. And he could do it, too, better'n anybody I ever see. He'd smell a storm further'n a cat can smell fish, and he hardly ever made a mistake. Prided himself on it, you understand, like a boy does on his first long pants. His prophecies was his idols, so's to speak, and you couldn't have hired him to foretell what he knew was wrong, not for no money.
Peter said Beriah and Eben was just the sort of "cards" he was looking for and drove right over to see 'em. He hooked 'em, too. I knew he would; he could talk a Come-Outer into believing that a Unitarian wasn't booked for Tophet, if he set out to.
So the special train from Boston brought the "house-party" down, and our two-seated buggy brought Beriah and Eben over. They didn't have anything to do but to look "picturesque" and say "I snum!" and "I swan to man!" and they could do that to the skipper's taste. The city folks thought they was "just too dear and odd for anything," and made 'em bigger fools than ever, which wa'n't necessary.
The second day of the "party" was to be a sailing trip clear down to the life-saving station on Setuckit Beach. It certainly looked as if 'twas going to storm, and the Gov'ment predictions said it was, but Beriah said "No," and stuck out that 'twould clear up by and by. Peter wanted to know what I thought about their starting, and I told him that 'twas my experience that where weather was concerned Beriah was a good, safe anchorage. So they sailed away, and, sure enough, it cleared up fine. And the next day the Gov'ment fellers said "clear" and Beriah said "rain," and she poured a flood. And, after three or four of such experiences, Beriah was all hunky with the "house-party," and they looked at him as a sort of wonderful freak, like a two-headed calf or the "snake child," or some such outrage.
So, when the party was over, 'round comes Peter, busting with a new notion. What he cal'lated to do was to start a weather prophesying bureau all on his own hook, with Beriah for prophet, and him for manager and general advertiser, and Jonadab and me to help put up the money to get her going. He argued that summer folks from Scituate to Provincetown, on both sides of the Cape, would pay good prices for the real thing in weather predictions. The Gov'ment bureau, so he said, covered too much ground, but Beriah was local and hit her right on the head. His idee was to send Beriah's predictions by telegraph to agents in every Cape town each morning, and the agents was to hand 'em to susscribers. First week a free trial; after that, so much per prophecy.
And it worked—oh, land, yes! it worked. Peter's letters and circulars would satisfy anybody that black was white, and the free trial was a sure bait. I don't know why 'tis, but if you offered the smallpox free, there'd be a barrel of victims waiting in line to come down with it. Brown rigged up a little shanty on the bluff in front of the "Old Home," and filled it full of barometers and thermometers and chronometers and charts, and put Beriah and Eben inside to look wise and make b'lieve do something. That was the office of "The South Shore Weather Bureau," and 'twas sort of sacred and holy, and 'twould kill you to see the boarders tip-toeing up and peeking in the winder to watch them two old coots squinting through a telescope at the sky or scribbling rubbish on paper. And Beriah was right 'most every time. I don't know why—my notion is that he was born that way, same as some folks are born lightning calculators—but I'll never forget the first time Peter asked him how he done it.
"Wall," drawls Beriah, "now to-day looks fine and clear, don't it? But last night my left elbow had rheumatiz in it, and this morning my bones ache, and my right toe-j'int is sore, so I know we'll have an easterly wind and rain this evening. If it had been my left toe now, why—"
Peter held up both hands.
"That'll do," he says. "I ain't asking any more questions. ONLY, if the boarders or outsiders ask you how you work it, you cut out the bones and toe business and talk science and temperature to beat the cars. Understand, do you? It's science or no eight-fifty in the pay envelope. Left toe-joint!" And he goes off grinning.
We had to have Eben, though he wasn't wuth a green hand's wages as a prophet. But him and Beriah stuck by each other like two flies in the glue-pot, and you couldn't hire one without t'other. Peter said 'twas all right—two prophets looked better'n one, anyhow; and, as subscriptions kept up pretty well, and the Bureau paid a fair profit, Jonadab and me didn't kick.
In July, Mrs. Freeman—she had charge of the upper decks in the "Old Home" and was rated head chambermaid—up and quit, and being as we couldn't get another capable Cape Codder just then, Peter fetched down a woman from New York; one that a friend of old Dillaway's recommended. She was able seaman so far's the work was concerned, but she'd been good-looking once and couldn't forget it, and she was one of them clippers that ain't happy unless they've got a man in tow. You know the kind: pretty nigh old enough to be a coal-barge, but all rigged up with bunting and frills like a yacht.
Her name was Kelly, Emma Kelly, and she was a widow—whether from choice or act of Providence I don't know. The other women servants was all down on her, of course, 'cause she had city ways and a style of wearing her togs that made their Sunday gowns and bonnets look like distress signals. But they couldn't deny that she was a driver so far's her work was concerned. She'd whoop through the hotel like a no'theaster and have everything done, and done well, by two o'clock in the afternoon. Then she'd be ready to dress up and go on parade to astonish the natives.
Men—except the boarders, of course—was scarce around Wellmouth Port. First the Kelly lady begun to flag Cap'n Jonadab and me, but we sheered off and took to the offing. Jonadab, being a widower, had had his experience, and I never had the marrying disease and wasn't hankering to catch it. So Emma had to look for other victims, and the prophet-shop looked to her like the most likely feeding-ground.
And, would you b'lieve it, them two old critters, Beriah and Eben, gobbled the bait like sculpins. If she'd been a woman like the kind they was used to—the Cape kind, I mean—I don't s'pose they'd have paid any attention to her; but she was diff'rent from anything they'd ever run up against, and the first thing you know, she had 'em both poke-hooked. 'Twas all in fun on her part first along, I cal'late, but pretty soon some idiot let out that both of 'em was wuth money, and then the race was on in earnest.
She'd drop in at the weather-factory 'long in the afternoon and pretend to be terrible interested in the goings on there.
"I don't see how you two gentlemen CAN tell whether it's going to rain or not. I think you are the most WONDERFUL men! Do tell me, Mr. Crocker, will it be good weather to-morrer? I wanted to take a little walk up to the village about four o'clock if it was."
And then Beriah'd swell out like a puffing pig and put on airs and look out of the winder, and crow:
"Yes'm, I jedge that we'll have a southerly breeze in the morning with some fog, but nothing to last, nothing to last. The afternoon, I cal'late, 'll be fair. I—I—that is to say, I was figgering on goin' to the village myself to-morrer."
Then Emma would pump up a blush, and smile, and purr that she was SO glad, 'cause then she'd have comp'ny. And Eben would glower at Beriah and Beriah'd grin sort of superior-like, and the mutual barometer, so's to speak, would fall about a foot during the next hour. The brotherly business between the two prophets was coming to an end fast, and all on account of Mrs. Kelly.
She played 'em even for almost a month; didn't show no preference one way or the other. First 'twas Eben that seemed to be eating up to wind'ard, and then Beriah'd catch a puff and gain for a spell. Cap'n Jonadab and me was uneasy, for we was afraid the Weather Bureau would suffer 'fore the thing was done with; but Peter was away, and we didn't like to interfere till he come home.
And then, all at once, Emma seemed to make up her mind, and 'twas all Eben from that time on. The fact is, the widder had learned, somehow or 'nother, that he had the most money of the two. Beriah didn't give up; he stuck to it like a good one, but he was falling behind and he knew it. As for Eben, he couldn't help showing a little joyful pity, so's to speak, for his partner, and the atmosphere in that rain lab'ratory got so frigid that I didn't know but we'd have to put up a stove. The two wizards was hardly on speaking terms.
The last of August come and the "Old Home House" was going to close up on the day after Labor Day. Peter was down again, and so was Ebenezer and Belle, and there was to be high jinks to celebrate the season's wind-up. There was to be a grand excursion and clambake at Setuckit Beach and all hands was going—four catboats full.
Of course, the weather must be good or it's no joy job taking females to Setuckit in a catboat. The night before the big day, Peter came out to the Weather Bureau and Jonadab and me dropped in likewise. Beriah was there all alone; Eben was out walking with Emma.
"Well, Jeremiah," says Brown, chipper as a mack'rel gull on a spar-buoy, "what's the outlook for to-morrer? The Gov'ment sharp says there's a big storm on the way up from Florida. Is he right, or only an 'also ran,' as usual?"
"Wall," says Beriah, goin' to the door, "I don't know, Mr. Brown. It don't look just right; I swan it don't! I can tell you better in the morning. I hope 'twill be fair, too, 'cause I was cal'lating to get a day off and borrer your horse and buggy and go over to the Ostable camp-meeting. It's the big day over there," he says.
Now, I knew of course, that he meant he was going to take the widder with him, but Peter spoke up and says he:
"Sorry, Beriah, but you're too late. Eben asked me for the horse and buggy this morning. I told him he could have the open buggy; the other one's being repaired, and I wouldn't lend the new surrey to the Grand Panjandrum himself. Eben's going to take the fair Emma for a ride," he says. "Beriah, I'm afraid our beloved Cobb is, in the innocence of his youth, being roped in by the sophisticated damsel in the shoo-fly hat," says he.
Me and Jonadab hadn't had time to tell Peter how matters stood betwixt the prophets, or most likely he wouldn't have said that. It hit Beriah like a snowslide off a barn roof. I found out afterwards that the widder had more'n half promised to go with HIM. He slumped down in his chair as if his mainmast was carried away, and he didn't even rise to blow for the rest of the time we was in the shanty. Just set there, looking fishy-eyed at the floor.
Next morning I met Eben prancing around in his Sunday clothes and with a necktie on that would make a rainbow look like a mourning badge.
"Hello!" says I. "You seem to be pretty chipper. You ain't going to start for that fifteen-mile ride through the woods to Ostable, be you? Looks to me as if 'twas going to rain."
"The predictions for this day," says he, "is cloudy in the forenoon, but clearing later on. Wind, sou'east, changing to south and sou'west."
"Did Beriah send that out?" says I, looking doubtful, for if ever it looked like dirty weather, I thought it did right then.
"ME and Beriah sent it out," he says, jealous-like. But I knew 'twas Beriah's forecast or he wouldn't have been so sure of it.
Pretty soon out comes Peter, looking dubious at the sky.
"If it was anybody else but Beriah," he says, "I'd say this mornings prophecy ought to be sent to Puck. Where is the seventh son of the seventh son—the only original American seer?"
He wasn't in the weather-shanty, and we finally found him on one of the seats 'way up on the edge of the bluff. He didn't look 'round when we come up, but just stared at the water.
"Hey, Elijah!" says Brown. He was always calling Beriah "Elijah" or "Isaiah" or "Jeremiah" or some other prophet name out of Scripture. "Does this go?" And he held out the telegraph-blank with the morning's prediction on it.
Beriah looked around just for a second. He looked to me sort of sick and pale—that is, as pale as his sun-burned rhinoceros hide would ever turn.
"The forecast for to-day," says he, looking at the water again, "is cloudy in the forenoon, but clearing later on. Wind sou'east, changing to south and sou'west."
"Right you are!" says Peter, joyful. "We start for Setuckit, then. And here's where the South Shore Weather Bureau hands another swift jolt to your Uncle Sam."
So, after breakfast, the catboats loaded up, the girls giggling and screaming, and the men boarders dressed in what they hoped was sea-togs. They sailed away 'round the lighthouse and headed up the shore, and the wind was sou'east sure and sartin, but the "clearing" part wasn't in sight yet.
Beriah didn't watch 'em go. He stayed in the shanty. But by and by, when Eben drove the buggy out of the barn and Emma come skipping down the piazza steps, I see him peeking out of the little winder.
The Kelly critter had all sail sot and colors flying. Her dress was some sort of mosquito netting with wall-paper posies on it, and there was more ribbons flapping than there is reef-p'ints on a mainsail. And her hat! Great guns! It looked like one of them pictures you see in a flower-seed catalogue.
"Oh!" she squeals, when she sees the buggy. "Oh! Mr. Cobb. Ain't you afraid to go in that open carriage? It looks to me like rain."
But Eben waved his flipper, scornful. "My forecast this morning," says he, "is cloudy now, but clearing by and by. You trust to me, Mis' Kelly. Weather's my business."
"Of COURSE I trust you, Mr. Cobb," she says, "Of course I trust you, but I should hate to spile my gown, that's all."
They drove out of the yard, fine as fiddlers, and I watched 'em go. When I turned around, there was Beriah watching 'em too, and he was smiling for the first time that morning. But it was one of them kind of smiles that makes you wish he'd cry.
At ha'f-past ten it begun to sprinkle; at eleven 'twas raining hard; at noon 'twas a pouring, roaring, sou'easter, and looked good for the next twelve hours at least.
"Good Lord! Beriah," says Cap'n Jonadab, running into the Weather Bureau, "you've missed stays THIS time, for sure. Has your prophecy-works got indigestion?" he says.
But Beriah wasn't there. The shanty was closed, and we found out afterwards that he spent that whole day in the store down at the Port.
By two o'clock 'twas so bad that I put on my ileskins and went over to Wellmouth and telephoned to the Setuckit Beach life-saving station to find out if the clambakers had got there right side up. They'd got there; fact is, they was in the station then, and the language Peter hove through that telephone was enough to melt the wires. 'Twas all in the shape of compliments to the prophet, and I heard Central tell him she'd report it to the head office. Brown said 'twas blowing so they'd have to come back by the inside channel, and that meant landing 'way up Harniss way, and hiring teams to come to the Port with from there.
'Twas nearly eight when they drove into the yard and come slopping up the steps. And SUCH a passel of drownded rats you never see. The women-folks made for their rooms, but the men hopped around the parlor, shedding puddles with every hop, and hollering for us to trot out the head of the Weather Bureau.
"Bring him to me," orders Peter, stopping to pick his pants loose from his legs; "I yearn to caress him."
And what old Dillaway said was worse'n that.
But Beriah didn't come to be caressed. 'Twas quarter past nine when we heard wheels in the yard.
"By mighty!" yells Cap'n Jonadab; "it's the camp-meeting pilgrims. I forgot them. Here's a show."
He jumped to open the door, but it opened afore he got there and Beriah come in. He didn't pay no attention to the welcome he got from the gang, but just stood on the sill, pale, but grinning the grin that a terrier dog has on just as you're going to let the rat out of the trap.
Somebody outside says: "Whoa, consarn you!" Then there was a thump and a sloshy stamping on the steps, and in comes Eben and the widder.
I had one of them long-haired, foreign cats once that a British skipper gave me. 'Twas a yeller and black one and it fell overboard. When we fished it out it looked just like the Kelly woman done then. Everybody but Beriah just screeched—we couldn't help it. But the prophet didn't laugh; he only kept on grinning.
Emma looked once round the room, and her eyes, as well as you could see 'em through the snarl of dripping hair and hat-trimming, fairly snapped. Then she went up the stairs three steps at a time.
Eben didn't say a word. He just stood there and leaked. Leaked and smiled. Yes, sir! his face, over the mess that had been that rainbow necktie, had the funniest look of idiotic joy on it that ever I see. In a minute everybody else shut up. We didn't know what to make of it.
'Twas Beriah that spoke first.
"He! he! he!" he chuckled. "He! he! he! Wasn't it kind of wet coming through the woods, Mr. Cobb? What does Mrs. Kelly think of the day her beau picked out to go to camp-meeting in?"
Then Eben came out of his trance.
"Beriah," says he, holding out a dripping flipper, "shake!"
But Beriah didn't shake. Just stood still.
"I've got a s'prise for you, shipmate," goes on Eben. "Who did you say that lady was?"
Beriah didn't answer. I begun to think that some of the wet had soaked through the assistant prophet's skull and had give him water on the brain.
"You called her Mis' Kelly, didn't you?" gurgled Eben. "Wall, that ain't her name. Her and me stopped at the Baptist parsonage over to East Harniss when we was on the way home and got married. She's Mis' Cobb now," he says.
Well, the queerest part of it was that 'twas the bad weather was really what brought things to a head so sudden. Eben hadn't spunked up anywhere nigh enough courage to propose, but they stopped at Ostable so long, waiting for the rain to let up, that 'twas after dark when they was half way home. Then Emma—oh, she was a slick one!—said that her reputation would be ruined, out that way with a man that wa'n't her husband. If they was married now, she said—and even a dummy could take THAT hint.
I found Beriah at the weather-shanty about an hour afterwards with his head on his arms. He looked up when I come in.
"Mr. Wingate," he says, "I'm a fool, but for the land's sake don't think I'm SUCH a fool as not to know that this here storm was bound to strike to-day. I lied," he says; "I lied about the weather for the first time in my life; lied right up and down so as to get her mad with him. My repertation's gone forever. There's a feller in the Bible that sold his—his birthday, I think 'twas—for a mess of porridge. I'm him; only," and he groaned awful, "they've cheated me out of the porridge."
But you ought to have read the letters Peter got next day from subscribers that had trusted to the prophecy and had gone on picnics and such like. The South Shore Weather Bureau went out of business right then.
THE DOG STAR
It commenced the day after we took old man Stumpton out codfishing. Me and Cap'n Jonadab both told Peter T. Brown that cod wa'n't biting much at that season, but he said cod be jiggered.
"What's troubling me just now is landing suckers," he says.
So the four of us got into the Patience M.—she's Jonadab's catboat—and sot sail for the Crab Ledge. And we hadn't more'n got our lines over the side than we struck into a school of dogfish. Now, if you know anything about fishing you know that when the dogfish strike on it's "good-by, cod!" So when Stumpton hauled a big fat one over the rail I could tell that Jonadab was ready to swear. But do you think it disturbed your old friend, Peter Brown? No, sir! He never winked an eye.
"By Jove!" he sings out, staring at that dogfish as if 'twas a gold dollar. "By Jove!" says he, "that's the finest specimen of a Labrador mack'rel ever I see. Bait up, Stump, and go at 'em again."
So Stumpton, having lived in Montana ever sence he was five years old, and not having sighted salt water in all that time, he don't know but what there IS such critters as "Labrador mack'rel," and he goes at 'em, hammer and tongs. When we come ashore we had eighteen dogfish, four sculpin and a skate, and Stumpton was the happiest loon in Ostable County. It was all we could do to keep him from cooking one of them "mack'rel" with his own hands. If Jonadab hadn't steered him out of the way while I sneaked down to the Port and bought a bass, we'd have had to eat dogfish—we would, as sure as I'm a foot high.
Stumpton and his daughter, Maudina, was at the Old Home House. 'Twas late in September, and the boarders had cleared out. Old Dillaway—Peter's father-in-law—had decoyed the pair on from Montana because him and some Wall Street sharks were figgering on buying some copper country out that way that Stumpton owned. Then Dillaway was took sick, and Peter, who was just back from his wedding tower, brought the Montana victims down to the Cape with the excuse to give 'em a good time alongshore, but really to keep 'em safe and out of the way till Ebenezer got well enough to finish robbing 'em. Belle—Peter's wife—stayed behind to look after papa.
Stumpton was a great tall man, narrer in the beam, and with a figgerhead like a henhawk. He enjoyed himself here at the Cape. He fished, and loafed, and shot at a mark. He sartinly could shoot. The only thing he was wishing for was something alive to shoot at, and Brown had promised to take him out duck shooting. 'Twas too early for ducks, but that didn't worry Peter any; he'd a-had ducks to shoot at if he bought all the poultry in the township.
Maudina was like her name, pretty, but sort of soft and mushy. She had big blue eyes and a baby face, and her principal cargo was poetry. She had a deckload of it, and she'd heave it overboard every time the wind changed. She was forever ordering the ocean to "roll on," but she didn't mean it; I had her out sailing once when the bay was a little mite rugged, and I know. She was just out of a convent school, and you could see she wasn't used to most things—including men.
The first week slipped along, and everything was serene. Bulletins from Ebenezer more encouraging every day, and no squalls in sight. But 'twas almost too slick. I was afraid the calm was a weather breeder, and sure enough, the hurricane struck us the day after that fishing trip.
Peter had gone driving with Maudina and her dad, and me and Cap'n Jonadab was smoking on the front piazza. I was pulling at a pipe, but the cap'n had the home end of one of Stumpton's cigars harpooned on the little blade of his jackknife, and was busy pumping the last drop of comfort out of it. I never see a man who wanted to get his money's wuth more'n Jonadab, I give you my word, I expected to see him swaller that cigar remnant every minute.
And all to once he gives a gurgle in his throat.
"Take a drink of water," says I, scared like.
"Well, by time!" says he, pointing.
A feller had just turned the corner of the house and was heading up in our direction. He was a thin, lengthy craft, with more'n the average amount of wrists sticking out of his sleeves, and with long black hair trimmed aft behind his ears and curling on the back of his neck. He had high cheek bones and kind of sunk-in black eyes, and altogether he looked like "Dr. Macgoozleum, the Celebrated Blackfoot Medicine Man." If he'd hollered: "Sagwa Bitters, only one dollar a bottle!" I wouldn't have been surprised.
But his clothes—don't say a word! His coat was long and buttoned up tight, so's you couldn't tell whether he had a vest on or not—though 'twas a safe bet he hadn't—and it and his pants was made of the loudest kind of black-and-white checks. No nice quiet pepper-and-salt, you understand, but the checkerboard kind, the oilcloth kind, the kind that looks like the marble floor in the Boston post-office. They was pretty tolerable seedy, and so was his hat. Oh, he was a last year's bird's nest NOW, but when them clothes was fresh—whew! the northern lights and a rainbow mixed wouldn't have been more'n a cloudy day 'longside of him.
He run up to the piazza like a clipper coming into port, and he sweeps off that rusty hat and hails us grand and easy.
"Good-morning, gentlemen," says he.
"We don't want none," says Jonadab, decided.
The feller looked surprised. "I beg your pardon," says he. "You don't want any—what?"
"We don't want any 'Life of King Solomon' nor 'The World's Big Classifyers.' And we don't want to buy any patent paint, nor sewing machines, nor clothes washers, nor climbing evergreen roses, nor rheumatiz salve. And we don't want our pictures painted, neither."
Jonadab was getting excited. Nothing riles him wuss than a peddler, unless it's a woman selling tickets to a church fair. The feller swelled up until I thought the top button on that thunderstorm coat would drag anchor, sure.
"You are mistaken," says he. "I have called to see Mr. Peter Brown; he is—er—a relative of mine."
Well, you could have blown me and Jonadab over with a cat's-paw. We went on our beam ends, so's to speak. A relation of Peter T.'s; why, if he'd been twice the panorama he was we'd have let him in when he said that. Loud clothes, we figgered, must run in the family. We remembered how Peter was dressed the first time we met him.
"You don't say!" says I. "Come right up and set down, Mr.—Mr.—"
"Montague," says the feller. "Booth Montague. Permit me to present my card."
He drove into the hatches of his checkerboards and rummaged around, but he didn't find nothing but holes, I jedge, because he looked dreadful put out, and begged our pardons five or six times.
"Dear me!" says he. "This is embarassing. I've forgot my cardcase."
We told him never mind the card; any of Peter's folks was more'n welcome. So he come up the steps and set down in a piazza chair like King Edward perching on his throne. Then he hove out some remarks about its being a nice morning, all in a condescending sort of way, as if he usually attended to the weather himself, but had been sort of busy lately, and had handed the job over to one of the crew. We told him all about Peter, and Belle, and Ebenezer, and about Stumpton and Maudina. He was a good deal interested, and asked consider'ble many questions. Pretty soon we heard a carriage rattling up the road.
"Hello!" says I. "I guess that's Peter and the rest coming now."
Mr. Montague got off his throne kind of sudden.
"Ahem!" says he. "Is there a room here where I may—er—receive Mr. Brown in a less public manner? It will be rather a—er—surprise for him, and—"
Well, there was a good deal of sense in that. I know 'twould surprise ME to have such an image as he was sprung on me without any notice. We steered him into the gents' parlor, and shut the door. In a minute the horse and wagon come into the yard. Maudina said she'd had a "heavenly" drive, and unloaded some poetry concerning the music of billows and pine trees, and such. She and her father went up to their rooms, and when the decks was clear Jonadab and me tackled Peter T.
"Peter," says Jonadab, "we've got a surprise for you. One of your relations has come."
Brown, he did look surprised, but he didn't act as he was any too joyful.
"Relation of MINE?" says he. "Come off! What's his name?"
We told him Montague, Booth Montague. He laughed.
"Wake up and turn over," he says. "They never had anything like that in my family. Booth Montague! Sure 'twa'n't Algernon Cough-drops?"
We said no, 'twas Booth Montague, and that he was waiting in the gents' parlor. So he laughed again, and said somethin' about sending for Laura Lean Jibbey, and then we started.
The checkerboard feller was standing up when we opened the door. "Hello, Petey!" says he, cool as a cucumber, and sticking out a foot and a half of wrist with a hand at the end of it.
Now, it takes considerable to upset Peter Theodosius Brown. Up to that time and hour I'd have bet on him against anything short of an earthquake. But Booth Montague done it—knocked him plumb out of water. Peter actually turned white.
"Great—" he began, and then stopped and swallered. "HANK!" he says, and set down in a chair.
"The same," says Montague, waving the starboard extension of the checkerboard. "Petey, it does me good to set my eyes on you. Especially now, when you're the real thing."
Brown never answered for a minute. Then he canted over to port and reached down into his pocket. "Well," says he, "how much?"
But Hank, or Booth, or Montague—whatever his name was—he waved his flipper disdainful. "Nun-nun-nun-no, Petey, my son," he says, smiling. "It ain't 'how much?' this time. When I heard how you'd rung the bell the first shot out the box and was rolling in coin, I said to myself: 'Here's where the prod comes back to his own.' I've come to live with you, Petey, and you pay the freight."
Peter jumped out of the chair. "LIVE with me!" he says. "You Friday evening amateur night! It's back to 'Ten Nights in a Barroom' for yours!" he says.
"Oh, no, it ain't!" says Hank, cheerful. "It'll be back to Popper Dillaway and Belle. When I tell 'em I'm your little cousin Henry and how you and me worked the territories together—why—well, I guess there'll be gladness round the dear home nest; hey?"
Peter didn't say nothing. Then he fetched a long breath and motioned with his head to Cap'n Jonadab and me. We see we weren't invited to the family reunion, so we went out and shut the door. But we did pity Peter; I snum if we didn't!