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By JOSEPH C. LINCOLN
FAIR HARBOR GALUSHA THE MAGNIFICENT THE PORTYGEE "SHAVINGS" MARY-'GUSTA CAP'N DAN'S DAUGHTER THE RISE OF ROSCOE PAINE THE POSTMASTER THE WOMAN HATERS KEZIAH COFFIN CY WHITTAKER'S PLACE CAP'N ERI EXTRICATING OBADIAH THANKFUL'S INHERITANCE MR. PRATT MR. PRATT'S PATIENTS KENT KNOWLES: "QUAHAUG" CAP'N WARREN'S WARDS THE DEPOT MASTER OUR VILLAGE PARTNERS OF THE TIDE THE OLD HOME HOUSE CAPE COD BALLADS
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JOSEPH C. LINCOLN
Author of "Galusha the Magnificent," "Shavings," "Mary 'Gusta," "Mr. Pratt," "Cap'n Eri," Etc.
D. Appleton and Company New York :: 1922 :: London
Copyright, 1922, by D. Appleton Company Copyright, 1922, by the Curtis Publishing Company
Printed in the United States of America
"Hi hum," observed Mr. Joel Macomber, putting down his knife and fork with obvious reluctance and tilting back his chair. "Hi hum-a-day! Man, born of woman, is of few days and full of—of somethin', I forget what—George, what is it a man born of woman is full of?"
George Kent, putting down his knife and fork, smiled and replied that he didn't know. Mr. Macomber seemed shocked.
"Don't know?" he repeated. "Tut, tut! Dear me, dear me! A young feller that goes to prayer meetin' every Friday night—or at least waits outside the meetin'-house door every Friday night—and yet he don't remember his Scriptur' well enough to know what man born of woman is full of? My soul and body! What's the world comin' to?"
Nobody answered. The six Macomber children, Lemuel, Edgar, Sarah-Mary, Bemis, Aldora and Joey, ages ranging from fourteen to two and a half, kept on eating in silence—or, if not quite in silence, at least without speaking. They had been taught not to talk at table; their mother had taught them, their father playing the part of horrible example. Mrs. Macomber, too, was silent. She was busy stacking plates and cups and saucers preparatory to clearing away. When the clearing away was finished she would be busy washing dishes and after that at some other household duty. She was always busy and always behind with her work.
Her husband turned to the only other person at the crowded table.
"Cap'n Sears," he demanded, "you know 'most everything. What is it man born of woman is full of besides a few days?"
Sears Kendrick thoughtfully folded his napkin. There was a hole in the napkin—holes were characteristic of the Macomber linen—but the napkin was clean; this was characteristic, too.
"Meanin' yourself, Joel?" he asked, bringing the napkin edges into line.
"Not necessarily. Meanin' any man born of woman, I presume likely."
"Humph! Know many that wasn't born that way?"
Mr. Macomber's not too intellectual face creased into many wrinkles and the low ceiling echoed with his laugh. "Not many, I don't cal'late," he said, "that's a fact. But you ain't answered my question, Cap'n. What is man born of woman full of?"
Captain Kendrick placed the folded napkin carefully beside his plate.
"Breakfast, just now, I presume likely," he said. "At least, I know two or three that ought to be, judgin' by the amount of cargo I've seen 'em stow aboard in the last half hour." Then, turning to Mrs. Macomber, he added, "I'm goin' to help you with the dishes this mornin', Sarah."
The lady of the house had her own ideas on that subject.
"Indeed you won't do anything of the sort," she declared. "The idea! And you just out of a crippled bed, as you might say."
This remark seemed to amuse her husband hugely. "Ho, ho!" he shouted. "That's a good one! I didn't know the bed was crippled, Sarah. What's the matter with it; got a pain in the slats?"
Sarah Macomber seldom indulged in retort. Usually she was too busy to waste the time. But she allowed herself the luxury of a half minute on this occasion.
"No," she snapped, "but it's had one leg propped up on half a brick for over a year. And at least once a week in all that time you've been promisin' to bring home a new caster and fix it. If that bed ain't a cripple I don't know what is."
Joel looked a trifle taken aback. His laugh this time was not quite as uproarious.
"Guess you spoke the truth that time, Sarah, without knowin' it. Who is it they say always speaks the truth? Children and fools, ain't it? Well, you ain't a child scarcely, Sarah. Hope you ain't the other thing. Eh? Ho, ho!"
Mrs. Macomber was halfway to the kitchen door, a pile of plates upon her arm. She did not stop nor turn, but she did speak.
"Well," she observed, "I don't know. I was one once in my life, there's precious little doubt about that."
She left the room. Young Kent and Captain Kendrick exchanged glances. Mr. Macomber swallowed, opened his mouth, closed it and swallowed again. Lemuel and Sarah-Mary, the two older children, giggled. The clock on the mantel struck seven times. The sound came, to the adults, as a timely relief from embarrassment.
Captain Kendrick looked at his watch.
"What's that?" he exclaimed. "Six bells already? So 'tis. I declare I didn't think 'twas so late."
Joel rose to his feet, moving—for him—with marked rapidity.
"Seven o'clock!" he cried. "My, my! We've got to get under way, George, if we want to make port at the store afore 'Liphalet does. Come on, George, hurry up."
Kent lingered for a moment to speak to Sears Kendrick. Then he emerged from the house and he and Joel walked rapidly off together. They were employed, one as clerk and bookkeeper and the other as driver of the delivery wagon, at Eliphalet Bassett's Grocery, Dry Goods, Boots and Shoes and Notion Store at the corner of the main road and the depot road. Joel's position there was fixed for eternity, at least he considered it so, having driven that same delivery wagon at the same wage for twenty-two years. "Me and that grocery cart," Mr. Macomber was wont to observe, "have been doin' 'Liphalet's errands so long we've come to be permanent fixtures. Yes, sir, permanent fixtures." When this was repeated to Mr. Bassett the latter affirmed that it was true. "Every time the dum fool goes out takin' orders," said Eliphalet, "he stays so long that I begin to think he's turned into a permanent fixture. Takes an order for a quarter pound of tea and a spool of cotton and then hangs 'round and talks steady for half an hour. Permanent fixture! Permanent gas fixture, that's what he is."
George Kent did not consider himself a permanent fixture at Bassett's. He had been employed there for three years, or ever since the death of his father, Captain Sylvester Kent, who had died at sea aboard his ship, the Ocean Ranger, on the voyage home from Java to Philadelphia. George remained in Bayport to study law with Judge Knowles, who was interested in the young man and, being a lawyer of prominence on the Cape, was an influential friend worth having. The law occupied young Kent's attention in the evenings; he kept Mr. Bassett's books and sold Mr. Bassett's brown sugar, calico and notions during the days, not because he loved the work, the place, or its proprietor, but because the twelve dollars paid him each Saturday enabled him to live. And, in order to live so cheaply that he might save a bit toward the purchase of clothes, law books and sundries, he boarded at Joel Macomber's. Sarah Macomber took him to board, not because she needed company—six children and a husband supplied a sufficiency of that—but because three dollars more a week was three dollars more.
Joel and George having tramped off to business and the very last crumb of the Macomber breakfast having vanished, the Macomber children proceeded to go through their usual morning routine. Lemuel, who did chores for grumpy old Captain Elijah Samuels at the latter's big place on the depot road, departed to rake hay and be sworn at. Sarah-Mary went upstairs to make beds; when the bed-making was over she and Edgar and Bemis would go to school. Aldora and Joey, the two youngest, went outdoors to play. And Captain Sears Kendrick, late master of the ship Hawkeye, and before that of the Fair Wind and the Far Seas and goodness knows how many others, who ran away to ship as cabin boy when he was thirteen, who fought the Malay pirates when he was eighteen, and outwitted Semmes by outmaneuvering the Alabama when he was twenty-eight, a man once so strong and bronzed and confident, but now so weak and shaken—Captain Sears Kendrick rose painfully and with effort from his chair, took his cane from the corner and hobbled to the kitchen.
"Sarah," he said, "I'm goin' to help you with those dishes this mornin'."
"Sears," said Mrs. Macomber, taking the kettle of boiling dish-water from the top of the stove, "you'll do nothin' of the kind. You'll go outdoors and get a little sunshine this lovely day. It's the first real good day you've had since you got up from bed, and outdoors 'll help you more than anything else. Now you go!"
"But look here, Sarah, for Heaven's sake——"
"Be still, Sears, and don't be foolish. There ain't dishes enough to worry about. I'll have 'em done in half a shake. Go outdoors, I tell you. But don't you walk on those legs of yours. You hear me."
Her brother—Sarah Macomber was a Kendrick before she married Joel—smiled slightly. "How do you want me to walk, Sarah, on my hands?" he inquired. "Never mind my legs. They're better this mornin' than they have been since that fat woman and a train of cars fell on 'em.... Ah hum!" with a change of tone, "it's a pity they didn't fall on my neck and make a clean job of it, isn't it?"
"Sears!" reproachfully. "How can you talk so? And especially now, when the doctor says if you take care of yourself, you'll 'most likely be as well as ever in—in a little while."
"A little while! In a year or two was what he said. In ten years was probably what he meant, and you'll notice he put in the 'most likely' even at that. If you were to lash him in the fore-riggin' and keep him there till he told the truth, he'd probably end by sayin' that I would always be a good for nothin' hulk same as I am now."
"Sears, don't—please don't. I hate to hear you speak so bitter. It doesn't sound like you."
"It's the way I feel, Sarah. Haven't I had enough to make me bitter?"
His sister shook her head. "Yes, Sears," she admitted, "I guess likely you have, but I don't know as that is a very good excuse. Some of the rest of us," with a sigh, "haven't found it real smooth sailin' either; but——"
She did not finish the sentence, and there was no need. He understood and turned quickly.
"I'm sorry, Sarah," he said. "I ought to be hove overboard and towed astern. The Almighty knows you've had more to put up with than ever I had and you don't spend your time growlin' about it, either. I declare I'm ashamed of myself, but—but—well, you know how it is with me. I've never been used to bein' a loafer, spongin' on my relations."
"Don't, Sears. You know you ain't spongin', as you call it. You've paid your board ever since you've been here."
"Yes, I have. But how much? Next to half of nothin' a week and you wouldn't have let me pay that if I hadn't put my foot down. Or said I was goin' to try to put it down," he added with a grim smile. "You're a good woman, Sarah, a good woman, with more trials than your share. And what makes me feel worst of all, I do believe, is that I should be pitched in on you—to be the biggest trial of all. Well, that part's about over, anyhow. No matter whether I can walk or not I shan't stay and sponge on you. If I can't do anything else I'll hire a fish shanty and open clams for a livin'."
He smiled again and she smiled in sympathy, but there were tears in her eyes. She was seven years older than her brother, and he had always been her pride. When she was a young woman, helping with the housework in the old home there in Bayport, before her father's death and the sale of that home, she had watched with immense gratification his success in school. When he ran away to sea she had defended him when others condemned. Later, when tales of his "smartness," as sailor or mate, or by and by, a full rated captain, began to drift back, she had gloried in them. He came to see her semi-occasionally when his ship was in port, and his yarns of foreign lands and strange people were, to her, far more wonderful than anything she had ever found in the few books which had come in her way. Each present he brought her she had kept and cherished. And there was never a trace of jealousy in her certain knowledge that he had gone on growing while she had stopped, that he was a strong, capable man of the world—the big world—whereas she was, and would always be, the wife and household drudge of Joel Macomber.
Now, as she looked at him, pale, haggard and leaning on his cane, stooping a little when he had been so erect and sturdy, the pity which she had felt for him ever since they brought him into her sitting-room on the day of the railway accident became keener than ever and with it came an additional flash of insight. She realized more clearly than she had before that it was not his bodily injuries which hurt most and were the hardest to bear; it was his self-respect and the pride which were wounded sorest. That he—he—Sears Kendrick, the independent autocrat of the quarter deck, should be reduced to this! That it was wringing his soul she knew. He had never complained except to her, and even to her very, very seldom, but she knew. And she ventured to ask the question she had wanted to ask ever since he had sufficiently recovered to listen to conversation.
"Sears," she said "I haven't said a word before, and you needn't tell me now if you don't want to—it isn't any of my business—but is it true that you've lost a whole lot of money? It isn't true, is it?"
He had been standing by the open door, looking out into the yard. Now he turned to look at her.
"What isn't true, Sarah?" he asked.
"That you've lost a lot of money in—in that—that business you went into. It isn't true, is it, Sears? Oh, I hope it isn't! They say—why, some of 'em say you've lost all the money you had put by. An awful sight of money, they say. Sears, tell me it isn't true—please."
He regarded her in silence for a moment. Then he shook his head.
"Part of it isn't true, Sarah," he answered, with a slight smile. "I haven't lost a big lot of money."
"Oh, I'm so glad. Now I can tell 'em a few things, I guess."
"I wouldn't tell 'em too much, because the other part is true. I have lost about all I had put by."
"Um—hm. And served me right, of course. You can't make a silk ear out of a sow's purse, as old Cap'n Sam Doane used to love to say. You can't, no matter how good a purse—or—ear—it is. I was a pretty good sea cap'n if I do say it, but that wasn't any reason why I should have figured I was a good enough business man to back as slippery an eel as Jim Carpenter in the ship chandlery game ashore."
"But—you——" Mrs. Macomber hesitated to utter the disgraceful word, "you didn't fail up, did you, Sears?" she faltered. "You know that's what they say you did."
"Well, they say wrong. Carpenter failed, I didn't. I paid dollar for dollar. That's why I've got next to no dollars now."
"But you—you've got some, Sears. You must have," hopefully, "because you've been paying me board. So you must have some left."
The triumph in her face was pathetic. He hated to disturb her faith.
"Yes," he said dryly, "I have some left. Maybe seven hundred dollars or some such matter. If I had my legs left it would be enough, or more than enough. I wouldn't ask odds of anybody if I was the way I was before that train went off the track. I'd lost every shot I had in the locker, but I'm not very old yet—some years to leeward of forty—there was more money to be had where that came from and I meant to have it. And then—well, then this happened to me."
"I know. And to think that you was comin' down here on purpose to see me when it did happen. Seems almost as if I was to blame, somehow."
"Nonsense! Nobody was to blame but the engineer that wrecked the train and the three hundred pound woman that fell on my legs. And the engineer was killed, poor fellow, and the woman was—well, she carried her own punishment with her, I guess likely. Anyhow, I should call it a punishment if I had to carry it. There, there, Sarah! Let's talk about somethin' else. You do your dishes and, long as you won't let me help you, I'll hop-and-go-fetch-it out to that settee in the front yard and look at the scenery. Just think! I've been in Bayport almost four months and haven't been as far as that gate yet—except when they lugged me in past it, of course. And I don't recall much about that."
"I guess not, you poor boy. And I saw them bringin' you in, all stretched out, with your eyes shut, and as white as—— Oh, my soul and body! I don't want to think about it, let alone talk about it."
"Neither do I, Sarah, so we won't. Do you realize how little I know of what's been goin' on in Bayport since I was here last? And do you realize how long it has been since I was here?"
"Why, yes, I do, Sears. It's been almost six years; it will be just six on the tenth of next September."
The speech was illuminating. He looked at her curiously.
"You do keep account of my goin's and comin's, don't you, old girl?" he said. "Better than I do myself."
"Oh, it means more to me than it does to you. You live such a busy life, Sears, all over the world, meetin' everybody in all kinds of places. For me, with nothin' to do but be stuck down here in Bayport—well, it's different with me—I have to remember. Rememberin' and lookin' ahead is about all I have to keep me interested."
He was silent for a moment. Then he said: "It looks as if rememberin' was all I will be likely to have. Think of it, Sarah! Four months in Bayport and I haven't been to the post-office. That'll stand as a town record, I'll bet."
"And—and you'll keep up your courage, Sears? You won't let yourself get blue and discouraged, for my sake if nobody else's?"
He nodded. "I couldn't, Sarah," he said earnestly. "With you around I'd be ashamed to."
She ran to help him down the step, but he waved her away, and, leaning upon the cane and clinging fast to the lattice with the other hand, he managed to make the descent safely. Once on the flat level of the walk he moved more rapidly and, so it seemed to his sister, more easily than he had since his accident. The forty odd feet of walk he navigated in fair time and came to anchor, as he would have expressed it, upon the battered old bench by the Macomber gate. The gate, like the picket fence, of which it was a part, needed paint and the bench needed slats in its back. Almost anything which Joel Macomber owned needed something and his wife and family needed most of all.
An ancient cherry tree, its foliage now thickly spotted with green fruit, for the month was June, cast a shadow upon the occupant of the bench. At his feet grew a bed of daffodils and jonquils which Sarah Macomber had planted when she came, a hopeful bride, to that house. Each year they sprouted and bloomed and now, long after Sarah's hopes had ceased to sprout, they continued to flourish. Beside the cherry tree grew a lilac bush. Beyond the picket fence was the dusty sidewalk and beyond that the dustier, rutted road. And beyond the road and along it upon both sides were the houses and barns and the few shops of Bayport village, Bayport as it was, and as some of us remember it, in the early '70's.
In some respects it was much like the Bayport of to-day. The houses themselves have changed but little. Then, as now, they were trim and white and green-shuttered. Then, as now, the roses climbed upon their lattices and the silver-leaf poplars and elms and mulberry trees waved above them. But the fences which enclosed their trim lawns and yards have disappeared, and the hitching posts and carriage blocks by their front gates have gone also. Gone, too, are the horses and buggies and carryalls which used to stand by these gates or within those barns. They are gone, just as the ruts and dust of the roads have vanished. When Mrs. Captain Hammond, of the lower road, used to call upon Mrs. Ryder at West Bayport, she was wont to be driven to her destination in the intensely respectable Hammond buggy drawn by the equally respectable Hammond horse and piloted by the even more respectable—not to say venerable—Hammond coachman, who was also gardener and "hired man." And they made the little journey in the very respectable time of thirty-five minutes. Now when Mrs. Captain Hammond's granddaughter, who winters in Boston but summers at the old home, wishes to go to West Bayport she skims over the hard, oiled macadam in her five thousand dollar runabout and she finishes the skimming in eight minutes or less.
And although the dwellings along the Bayport roads are much as they were that morning when Captain Sears Kendrick sat upon the bench in the Macomber yard and gazed gloomily at the section of road which lay between the Macomber gate and the curve beyond the Orthodox meeting-house—although the houses were much the same in external appearance, those who occupy them at the present day are vastly different from those who owned and lived in them then. Here is the greatest change which time has brought to old Bayport. Now those houses—the majority of them—are open only in summer; then they were open all the year. They who come to them now regard them as playthings, good-time centers for twelve or fourteen weeks. Then they were the homes of men and women who were proud of them, loved them, meant to live in them—while on land—as long as life was theirs; to die in them if fortunate enough to be found by death while ashore; and at last to be buried near them, under the pines of the Bayport cemetery. Now these homes are used by business men or lawyers or doctors, whose real homes are in Boston, New York, Chicago, or other cities. Then practically every house was owned or occupied either by a sea captain, active or retired, or by a captain's widow or near relative.
For example, as Captain Kendrick sat in his brother-in-law's yard on that June morning of that year in the early '70's, within his sight, that is within the half mile from curve to curve of the lower road, were no less than nine houses in which dwelt—or had dwelt—men who gained a living upon a vessel's quarter deck. Directly across the road was the large, cupola-crowned house of Captain Solomon Snow. Captain Sol was at present somewhere between Surinam and New York, bound home. His wife was with him, so was his youngest child. The older children were at home, in the big house; their aunt, Captain Sol's sister, herself a captain's widow, was with them.
Next to Captain Solomon's was the Crowell place. Captain Bethuel Crowell was in Hong Kong, but, so his wife reported at sewing circle, had expected to sail from there "any day about now" bound for Melbourne. Next to Captain Bethuel lived Mrs. Patience Foster, called "Mary Pashy" by the townspeople to distinguish her from another Mary Foster in East Bayport. Her husband had been drowned at sea, or at least so it was supposed. His ship left Philadelphia eight years before and had never been spoken or heard from since that time. Next to Mary-Pashy's was the imposing, if ugly, residence of Captain Elkanah Wingate. Captain Elkanah was retired, wealthy, a member of the school-committee, a selectman, an aristocrat and an autocrat. And beyond Captain Elkanah lived Captain Godfrey Peasley—who was not quite of the aristocracy as he commanded a schooner instead of a square-rigger, and beyond him Mrs. Tabitha Crosby, whose husband had died of yellow fever while aboard his ship in New Orleans; and beyond Mrs. Crosby's was—well, the next building was the Orthodox meeting-house, where the Reverend David Dishup preached. Nowadays people call it the Congregationalist church. On the same side of the road as the Macomber cottage were the homes of Captain Sylvanus Baker and Captain Noah Baker and of Captain Orrin Eldridge.
Bayport, in that day, was not only by the sea, it was of the sea. The sea winds blew over it, the sea air smelled salty in its highways and byways, its male citizens—most of them—walked with a sea roll, and upon the tables and whatnots of their closed and shuttered "front parlors" or in their cupboards or closets were laquered cabinets, and whales' teeth, and alabaster images, and carved chessmen and curious shells and scented fans and heaven knows what, brought from heaven knows where, but all brought in sailing ships over one or more of the seas of the world. The average better class house in Bayport was an odd combination of home and museum, the rear two-thirds the home section and the remaining third, that nearest the road, the museum. Bayport front parlors looked like museums, and generally smelled like them.
To a stranger from, let us say, the middle west, the village then must have seemed a queer little community dozing upon its rolling hills and by its white beaches, a community where the women had, most of them, traveled far and seen many strange things and places, but who seldom talked of them, preferring to chat concerning the minister's wife's new bonnet; and whose men folk, appearing at long intervals from remote parts of the world, spoke of the port side of a cow and compared the three-sided clock tower of the new town hall with the peak of Teneriffe on a foggy morning.
All this, odd as it may have seemed to visitors from inland, were but matters of course to Sears Kendrick. To him there was nothing strange in the deep sea atmosphere of his native town. It had been there ever since he knew it, he fondly imagined—being as poor a prophet as most of us—that it would always be. And, as he sat there in the Macomber yard, his thoughts were busy, not with Bayport's past or future, but with his own, and neither retrospect nor forecast was cheerful. He could see little behind him except the mistakes he had made, and before him—not even the opportunity to make more.
Overhead, amid the cherry branches, the bees buzzed and the robins chirped. From the kitchen window came the click of dishes as Mrs. Macomber washed and wiped them. Around the curve of the road by the meeting-house came Dr. Sheldon's old horse, drawing Dr. Sheldon's antiquated chaise, with the doctor himself leaning back comfortably upon its worn cushions. Captain Kendrick, not being in the mood for a chat just then even with as good a friend as his physician, made no move, and the old chaise and its occupant passed by and disappeared around the next curve. Sarah-Mary and Edgar and Bemis noisily trooped out of the house and started for school. Edgar was enthusiastically carolling a ditty which was then popular among Bayport juvenility. It was reminiscent of a recent presidential campaign.
"Grant and Greely were fightin' for flies, Grant gave Greely a pair of black eyes—"
The children, like Doctor Sheldon and the chaise, passed out of sight around the bend of the road. Edgar's voice, more or less tunefully, drifted back:
"Grant said, 'Do you want any more?' Greely said, 'No, for my eyes are too sore.'"
Sears Kendrick crossed his knees and changed position upon the bench. Obviously he could not hope to go to sea again for months at the very earliest. Obviously he could not live during those months at his sister's. She would be only too delighted to have him do so, but on that point his mind was made up. And, quite as obviously, he could not long exist, and pay an adequate price for the privilege of existing, with the small sum which was left after his disastrous voyage upon the sea of business. His immediate problems then were two: First, to find a boarding place which was very, very cheap. Second, if possible, to find a means of earning a little money. The first of these he might, perhaps, solve after a fashion, but the second—and he a cripple! He groaned aloud.
Then he gradually became aware of a new set of sounds, sounds approaching along the road from the direction in which the children and the doctor's equipage had disappeared. The sounds, at first rather confused, gradually separated themselves into two varieties, one the sharp, irregular rattle of a springless cart, the second a hoarse unmusical voice which, like Edgar's, was raised in song. But in this case the rattle of the cart caused the song to be broken unexpectedly into jerky spasms, so to speak. Nevertheless, the singer kept manfully at his task.
"Now the Dreadnought's a-bowlin' (Bump! Rattle) down the wild Irish sea Where the pass (Bump!) engers are merry with hearts full of glee, While the sailors like lions (Gid-dap! What's the matter with ye) walk the decks to and fro, She's the Liverpool packet (Bump! Bang! Crack!) Good Lord, let her go!"
Sears Kendrick sat upright on the settee. Of course he recognized the song, every man who had ever sailed salt water knew the old Dreadnought chantey, but much more than that, he believed he recognized the voice of the singer. Leaning forward, he watched for the latter to appear.
Then, around the clump of lilacs which leaned over Captain Sol Snow's fence at the corner, came an old white horse drawing an old "truck-wagon," the wagon painted, as all Cape Cod truck-wagons then were and are yet, a bright blue; and upon the high seat of the wagon sat a chunky figure, a figure which rocked back and forth and sang:
"Now the Dreadnought's a sailin' the (Bang! Bump!) Atlantic so wide, While the (Thump! Bump!) dark heavy seas roll along her black side, With the sails neatly spread (Crump! Jingle!) and the red cross to show, She's the Liverpool packet; Good Lord, let——"
Captain Kendrick interrupted here.
"Ahoy, the Dreadnought!" he hailed. "Dreadnought ahoy!"
"Good Lord, let 'er go!" roared the man on the seat of the truck-wagon, finishing the stanza of his chantey. Then he added "Whoa!" in a mighty bellow. The white horse stopped in his tracks, as if he had one ear tipped backward awaiting the invitation. His driver leaned down and peered into the shadow of the lilac bush.
"Who—?" he began. "Eh? What? Limpin', creepin', crawlin', jumpin' Moses and the prophets! It ain't Cap'n Sears Kendrick, is it? It is, by Henry! Well, well, well, WELL, WELL!"
Each succeeding "well" was louder and more emphatic than its predecessor. They were uttered as the speaker rolled, rather than climbed, down from the high seat. Alighting upon a pair of enormous feet shod in heavy rubber boots, the tops of which were turned down, he thumped up the little slope from the road to the sidewalk. Then, thrusting over the fence pickets a red and hairy hand, the size of which corresponded to that of the feet, he roared another string of delighted exclamations.
"Cap'n Sears Kendrick, on deck and all taut again! Well, by the jumpin', creepin'! If this ain't—Cap'n Sears, sir, how be you?"
His broad-brimmed, battered straw hat had fallen off in his descent from the wagon seat, uncovering a partially bald head and a round, extremely red face, two-thirds of which was hidden by a tremendously thick and bristly tangle of short gray whiskers. The whiskers were now bisected by a broad grin, a grin so broad and so ecstatic that its wrinkles extended to the bulbous nose and the apple cheeks above.
"Cap'n Sears, sir," repeated the driver of the truck-wagon, "I'm proud to see you on deck again, sir. Darned if I ain't!"
The captain leaned forward and shook the big red hand extended across the fence pickets.
"Judah Cahoon, you old salt herrin'," he cried heartily, "I'm just as glad to see you! But what in the world are you doin' here in Bayport?"
Mr. Cahoon's grin vanished and the expression of his face above the whiskers indicated extreme surprise.
"What am I doin' here?" he repeated. "Didn't you know I was here, Cap'n Sears?"
"Of course I didn't. The last I heard of you you had shipped as cook aboard the Gallant Rover and was bound for Calcutta, or Singapore or somewhere in those latitudes. And that was only a year ago. What are you doin' on the Cape and pilotin' that kind of a craft?" indicating the truck wagon.
The question was ignored. "Didn't they never tell you I was here?" demanded Judah. "Didn't that Joel Macomber tell you I been hailin' him every time he crossed my bows, askin' about you every day since you run on the rocks? Didn't he tell you that?"
"Never give you my respects nor—nor kind rememberances, nor nawthin'?"
"Not a word. Never so much as mentioned your name."
"The red-headed shark!"
"There! There! Sshh! Never mind him. Come in here and sit down a minute, can't you? Or are you in a hurry?"
"Eh? No-o, I ain't in no 'special hurry. Just got a deck load of seaweed aboard carting it up home, that's all."
"Home? What home?"
"Why, where I'm livin'. I call it home; anyhow it's all the home I got. Eh? Why, Cap'n Sears, ain't they never told you that I'm livin' at the Minot place?"
"The Minot place! Why—why, man alive, you don't mean the General Minot place, do you?"
"Um-hm. That's what folks down here call it. There ain't no Generals there though."
"And you are livin' in the General Minot house? Look here, Judah, are you trying to make a fool of me?"
Mr. Cahoon's countenance—that portion of it above the whisker tidemark, of course—registered horror at the thought. He had been cook and steward aboard Captain Kendrick's ships for many voyages and his feeling for his former skipper was close kin to idolatry.
"Eh?" he gasped. "Me try to make a fool out of you, Cap'n Sears? Me? No, no, I got some sense left, I hope."
Kendrick smiled. "Oh, the thing isn't impossible, Judah," he observed dryly. "It has been done. I have been made a fool of and more than once.... But there, never mind that. I want to know what you are doin' at the General Minot place. Come aboard here and tell me about it. You can leave your horse, can't you? He doesn't look as if he was liable to run away."
"Run away! Him?" Judah snorted disgust. "Limpin' Moses! He won't run away for the same reason old Cap'n Eben Gould didn't say his prayers—he's forgot how. I was out with that horse on the flats last week and the tide pretty nigh caught us. The water in the main channel was so deep that it was clean up to the critter's garboard strake, and still, by the creepin', I couldn't get him out of a walk. I thought there one spell he might drift away, but I knew dum well he'd never run.... Whoa! you—you hipponoceros you!" addressing the ancient animal, who was placidly gnawing at the Macomber hitching post. "'Vast heavin' on that post! Look at the blasted idiot!" with huge disgust. "To home, by the creepin', he'll turn up his nose at good hay and then he'll cruise out here and start to swaller a wood fence. Whoa! Back! Back, or I'll—I'll bore a hole in you and scuttle you."
The old horse condescended to back for perhaps two feet, a proceeding which elicited a grunt of grudging approval from Mr. Cahoon. The latter then settled himself with a thump upon the settee beside Captain Kendrick.
"How's the spars splicin'?" he inquired, with a jerk of his thumb toward the captain's legs. "Gettin' so you can navigate with 'em? Stand up under sail, will they?"
"Not for much of a cruise," replied Sears, using the same nautical phraseology. "I shan't be able to run under anything but a jury rig for a good while, I'm afraid. But never mind the spars. I want to know how you happen to be down here in Bayport, and especially what on earth you are doin' at the Minot place? Somebody died and left you a million?"
Mr. Cahoon's whiskers were split again by his wide grin.
"If I was left a million I'd die," he observed with emphasis. "No, no, nothin' like that, Cap'n. I'm there along of ... humph! You know young Ogden Minot, don't you?"
"No, I guess I don't. I don't seem to remember him. Ogden Minot, you say?"
"Sartin. Why, you must have run afoul of him, Cap'n Sears. He has a—a sort of home moorin's at a desk in Barstow Brothers' shippin' office up on State Street. Has some kind of berth with the firm, they tell me, partner or somethin'. You must have seen him there."
"Well, if I have I.... Hold on a minute! Seems to me I do remember him. Tall fellow, dresses like a tailor's picture; speaks as if—"
"As if the last half of every word was comin' on the next boat. That's him. Light complected, wears his whiskers wing and wing, like a schooner runnin' afore the wind. Same kind of side whiskers old Cap'n Spencer of the Farewell used to carry that voyage when I fust run afoul of you. You was second mate and I was cook, remember. You recollect the skipper's side whiskers, Cap'n Sears? Course you do! Stuck out each side of his face pretty nigh big as old-fashioned studdin' sails. Fo'mast hands used to call 'em the old man's 'homeward-bounders.' Ho, ho! Why, I've seen them whiskers blowin'—"
"Never mind Cap'n Spencer's whiskers," he said. "Stick to your course, Judah. What about this Ogden Minot?"
"Everythin' bout him. If 'twan't for him I wouldn't be here now. No sir-ee, 'stead of settin' here swappin' yarns with you, Cap'n Sears, I'd be somewheres off Cape Horn, cookin' lobscouse and doughboy over a red-hot galley stove. Yes sir, that's where I'd be. And I'd just as soon be here, and a dum sight juster, as the feller said. Ho, ho! Tut, tut, tut! You can't never tell, can you? How many times I've stood in my galley with a gale of wind blowin', and my feet braced so's I wouldn't pitch into the salt-horse kittle every time she rolled, and thinkin'—"
"There, there, Judah! Bring her up, bring her up. You're three points off again."
"Eh? So I be, so I be. I'll try and hold her nose in the notch from now on. Well, 'twas last October, a year ago, when I'd about made up my mind to go cook in the Gallant Rover, same as you said. I hadn't signed articles, you understand, but I was cal'latin' to, and I was down on Long Wharf where the Rover was takin' cargo, and her skipper, Cap'n Gustavus Philbrick, 'twas—he was a Cape man, one of the Ostable Philbricks—he asked me if I wouldn't cruise up to the Barstow Brothers' office and fetch down some papers that was there for him. So I didn't have nawthin' to do 'special, and 'twas about time for my eleven o'clock—when I'm in Boston I always cal'late to hist aboard one eleven o'clock, rum and sweetenen' 'tis generally, at Jerry Crockett's saloon on India Street and.... Aye, aye, sir! All right, all right, Cap'n Sears. I'll keep her in the notch, don't worry. Well—er—er—what was I sayin'? Oh, yes! Well, I had my eleven o'clock and then I cruised up to the Barstow place, and the fust mate there, young Crosby Barstow 'twas, he was talkin' with this Ogden Minot. And when I hove in sight young Barstow, he sings out: 'And here's another Cape Codder, Ogden,' he says. 'You two ought to know each other. Cahoon,' says he, 'this is Mr. Ogden Minot; his folks hailed from Bayport. That's down your way, ain't it?'
"'You bet!' says I. 'My home port's Harniss, and that's right next door. Minot? Minot?' I says, tryin' to recollect, you understand. 'Seems to me I used to know a Minot down that way. Why, yes, course I did! You any relation to old Ichabod Minot, that skippered the Gypsy Maid fishin' to the Banks? Ichabod hailed from—from—Denboro, seems to me 'twas.'
"He said no pretty sharp. Barstow, he laughed like fury and wanted to know if this Ogden Minot looked like Ichabod. 'Is there a family resemblance?' he says. I told him I guessed not. 'Anyhow,' says I, 'I couldn't tell very well. I only seen Ichabod when he was drunk.' That tickled Barstow most to death. 'You never saw him but that once, then?' he wanted to know. 'Oh, yes,' says I, 'I seen him about every time he was on shore after a fishin' trip.'
"That seemed to make him laugh more'n ever and even young Ogden laughed some. Anyhow, we got to talkin' and I told Barstow how I was cal'latin' to go cook on the Gallant Rover. 'And I'm sick of it,' I says. 'I'd like a nice snug berth ashore.' 'You would?' says Barstow. Then he says, 'Humph!' and looks at Minot. And Minot, he says, 'Humph!' and looked at him. And then they both says, 'Humph!' and looked at me. And afore I set sail from that office to carry Cap'n Philbrick's papers back to him I'd agreed not to sign on for that v'yage as cook until I'd cruised down here to Bayport along of young Ogden Minot to see how I'd like to be sort of—of general caretaker and stevedore, as you might call it, at the General Minot place. You see, young Ogden was the General's grandson and he'd had the property left him. And 'twas part of the sailin' orders—in the old General's will, you understand—that it couldn't be sold, but must always be took care of and kept up. Ogden could rent it out but he couldn't sell it; that was the pickle he was in. Understand, don't you, Cap'n Sears?"
Kendrick nodded. "Why—yes, I guess likely I do," he said. "But this Minot boy could live in it himself, couldn't he? Why doesn't he do that? As I remember it, it was considerable of a house. I should think he would come here himself and live."
Judah nodded. "You would think so, wouldn't you?" he agreed. "But he don't think so, and what's a mighty sight more account, his wife don't think so. She's one of them kind of women that—that—well, when she gets to heaven—course I ain't layin' no bets on her gettin' there, but if she does—the fust thing she'll do after she fetches port is to find out which one of them golden streets has got the highest-toned gang livin' on it and then start in tryin' to tie up to the wharf there herself. She wouldn't live in no Bayport. No sir—ee! She's got winter moorin's up in one of them streets back of the Common, and summer times she's down to a place called—er—er—Nahum—Nehimiah—No—jumpin' prophets! What's the name of that place out on the rocks abaft Lynn?"
"Nahant?" suggested his companion.
"That's it. She and him is to Nahant summers. And what for I don't know, when right here in Bayport is a great, big, fine house and land around it and—and flower tubs in the front yard and—and marble top tables—and—and haircloth chairs and sofys, and—and a Rogers' statoo in the parlor and—and.... Why, say, Cap'n Sears, you ought to see that house and the things in it. They've spent money on that house same as if a five dollar bill wan't nawthin'. Wasted it, I call it. The second day I was there I wanted to brush off some dust that was on the chair seats and I was huntin' round from bow to stern lookin' for one of them little brush brooms, you know, same as you brush clothes with. Well, sir, I'd about give up lookin' when I happened to look on the wall of the settin'-room and there was one hangin' up. And, say, Cap'n Sears, I wisht you could have seen it! 'Twas triced up in a—a kind of becket, as you might say, made out of velvet—yes, sir, by creepin', velvet! And the velvet had posies and grass painted on it. And, I don't know as you'll believe it, but it's a fact, the handle of that brush broom was gilded! Yes sir, by Henry, gilded! 'Well,' thinks I to myself, 'if this ain't then I don't know what is!' I did cal'late that I was gettin' used to style, and high-toned money-slingin', but when it comes to puttin' gold handles onto brush-brooms, that had me on my beam ends, that did. And ain't it a sinful waste, Cap'n Sears, I ask you? Now ain't it? And what in time is the good of it? A brush-broom is just a broom, no matter if——"
Again the captain interrupted. "Yes, yes, of course, Judah," he agreed, laughing; "but what do you do up there all by yourself? In that big house?"
"Oh, I don't live in the whole house. I could if I wanted to. Ogden, he don't care where I live or what I do. All he wants of me, he says, is to keep the place lookin' good, and the grass cut and one thing or 'nother. He keeps hopin' he's goin' to rent it, you know, but they won't nobody hire it. The only thing a place big as that would be good for is to keep tavern. And we've got one tavern here in Bayport already."
Kendrick seemed to be thinking. He pulled his beard. Of course he wore a beard; in those days he would have been thought queer if he had not. Even the Harvard students who came to Bayport occasionally on summer tramping trips wore beards or sidewhiskers; the very callowest Freshman sported and nourished a moustache.
"So you don't occupy the whole house, Judah?" asked the captain.
"No, no," replied Mr. Cahoon. "I live out in the back part. There's the kitchen and woodshed and dinin'-room out there and a couple of bedrooms. That's all I want. There's nine more bedrooms in that house, Cap'n," he declared solemnly. "That makes eleven altogether. Now what in tunket do you cal'late anybody'd ever do with eleven bedrooms?"
Kendrick shook his head. "Give it up, Judah," he said. "For the matter of that, I don't see what you do with two. Do you sleep in one week nights and the other on Sundays?"
Judah grinned. "No, no, Cap'n," he said. "I don't know myself why I keep that other bedroom fixed up. Cal'late I do it just for fun, kind of makin' believe I'm going to have company, I guess. It gets kind of lonesome there sometimes, 'specially meal times and evenin's. There I set at mess, you know, grand as the skipper of the Great Republic, cloth on the table, silver knife and fork, silver castor with blue glass vinegar and pepper-sass bottles, great, big, elegant mustache cup with 'Forget Me Not' printed out on it in gold letters—everything so fine it couldn't be no finer—but by creepin', sometimes I can't help feelin' lonesome! Seems foolish, don't it, but I be."
Captain Kendrick did not speak. He pulled at his beard with more deliberation and the look in his eye was that of one watching the brightening dawn of an idea.
"I told Ogden so last time he was down," continued Mr. Cahoon. "He asked me if I was comf'table and if I wanted anything more and I told him I didn't. 'Only thing that ails me,' I says, 'is that I get kind of lonesome bein' by myself so much. Sometimes I wisht I had comp'ny.' 'Well, why don't you have comp'ny?' says he. 'You've got room enough, lord knows.' 'Yes,' I says, 'but who'll I have?' He laughed. 'That's your lookout,' says he. 'You can't expect me to hire a companion for you.'"
"Humph!" Kendrick regarded him thoughtfully. "So you would like company, would you, Judah?"
"Sartin sure I would, if 'twas the right kind. I got a cat and that helps a little mite. And Cap'n Shubal Hammond's wife told me yesterday she'd give me a young pig if I wanted one. That's what I'm cartin' home this little mite of seaweed for, to bed down the pig sty. But cats and hogs, they're all right enough, but they ain't human."
"Do you keep hens?"
This apparently harmless question seemed to arouse Mr. Cahoon's ire. His whiskers bristled and his nose flamed.
"Hens!" he repeated. "Don't talk to me about hens! No, sir, by the prophets, I don't keep hens! But them everlastin' Fair Harborers keep 'em and if they'd keep 'em to home I wouldn't say a word. But they don't. Half the time they're over my side of the fence raisin' blue hob with my garden. Hens! Don't talk to me about 'em! I hate the sight of the critters."
Kendrick smiled. "And after all," he observed, "hens aren't human, either."
Judah snorted. "Some are," he declared, "and them's the worst kind."
There was, doubtless, a hidden meaning in this speech, but if so Sears Kendrick did not seek to find it. Laying a hand upon the broad shoulder of his former sea-cook he lifted himself to his feet.
"Judah," he asked, briskly, "is that seaweed in your cart there dry?"
"Eh? Dry? Yes, yes, dry as a cat's back. Been layin' on the beach above tide mark ever since last winter. Why?"
"Do you suppose you could help me hoist myself aboard?"
"Aboard? Aboard that truck-wagon? For the land sakes, what for?"
"Because I want a ride. I've been in drydock here till I'm pretty nearly crazy. I want to go on a cruise, even if it isn't but a half mile one. Don't you want to cart me down to your anchorage and let me see how you and General Minot and the gilt whisk broom get along? I can sprawl on that seaweed and be as comfortable as a gull on a clam flat. Come on now! Heave ahead! Give us a hand up!"
"But—limpin' prophets, Cap'n Sears, I couldn't cart you up the main road of Bayport in a seaweed cart. You, of all men! What do you cal'late folks would say if they see me doin' it? Course I'd love to have you ride down and see how I'm livin'. If you'd set up on the thawt there," indicating the high seat of the truck-wagon, "I'd be proud to have you. But to haul you along on a load of seaweed that's goin' to bed down a hog! Cap'n, you know 'twouldn't be fittin'! Course you do."
His horror at the sacrilege was so ludicrous that Kendrick laughed aloud. However, he insisted that there was nothing unfitting in the idea; it was a good idea and founded upon common-sense.
"How long do you think these sprung sticks of mine would last," he said, referring to his legs, "if they were jouncin' up and down on that seat aloft there? And I couldn't climb up even if I wanted to. But, you and I between us, Judah, can get me in on that seaweed, and that's what we're goin' to do. Come, come! Tumble up! All hands on deck now! Lively!"
The familiar order, given with a touch of the old familiar crispness and authority, had its effect. Mr. Cahoon argued no more. Instead he sprang to attention, figuratively speaking.
"Aye, aye, sir!" he said. "Here she goes. Take it easy, Cap'n; don't hurry. Ease yourself down that bankin'. If we was to let go and you come down with a run there'd be the divil and all to pay, wouldn't there? So ... so.... Here we be, alongside. Now—— Aloft with ye."
They had reached the road by the tailboard of the wagon. And now Judah stooped, picked up his former skipper in his arms and swung him in upon the load of dry seaweed as if he were a two year old boy instead of a full-grown, and very much grown, man.
"Well," he asked, as he climbed to the seat, "all ready to make sail, be we? Any message you want to leave along with Sary? She won't know what end you've made, will she?"
"Oh, she'll guess I've gone buggy-ridin' with the doctor. He's been threatenin' to take me with him 'most any day now. Sarah'll be all right. Get under way, Judah."
"Aye, aye, sir. Git dap! Git dap! Limpin', creepin', crawlin', hoppin', jumpin'.... Starboard! starboard, you son of a Chinee! Need a tug to haul this critter into the channel, I swan you do! Git dap! All shipshape aft there, Cap'n Sears? Good enough! let her run."
The old white horse—like the whisk broom and the Rogers group, a part of the furniture of the General Minot place—plodded along the dusty road and the blue truck-wagon rolled and rattled behind him. Captain Kendrick, settling his invalid limbs in the most comfortable fashion, lay back upon the seaweed and stared at the sky seen through the branches of elms and silver-leaf poplars which arched above. He made no attempt to look over the sides of the cart. Raising himself upon an elbow to do so entailed a good deal of exertion and this was his first trip abroad since his accident. Besides, seeing would probably mean being seen and he was not in the mood to answer the questions of curious, even if sympathetic, townsfolk. Judah made several attempts at conversation, but the replies were not satisfactory, so he gave it up after a little and, as was his habit, once more broke forth in song. Judah Cahoon, besides being sea cook on many, many voyages, had been "chantey man" on almost as many. His repertoire was, therefore, extensive and at times astonishing. Now, as he rocked back and forth upon the wagon seat, he caroled, not the Dreadnought chantey, but another, which told of a Yankee ship sailing down the Congo River, evidently in the old days of the slave trade.
"'Who do you think is the cap'n of her? Blow, boys, blow! Old Holy Joe, the darky lover, Blow, my bully boys, blow!
'What do you think they've got for dinner? Blow, boys, blow! Hot water soup, but a dum sight thinner, Blow, my bully boys, blow!
'Oh, blow to-day and blow to-morrer, Blow, boys, blow! And blow for all old salts in sorrer, Blow, my bully——'
"Oh, say, Cap'n Sears!"
"They've put up the name sign on the Fair Harbor since you was in Bayport afore, ain't they? We're right off abreast of it now. Can't you hist yourself up and look over the side? It's some consider'ble of a sign, that is. Lobelia she left word to have that sign painted and set up last time she was here. She's over acrost in one of them Eyetalian ports now, so I understand, her and that feller she married. Eh? Ain't that quite a sign, now, Cap'n?"
Kendrick, because his driver seemed to be so eager, sat up and looked over the sideboard of the truck-wagon. The vehicle was just passing a long stretch of ornate black iron fence in the center of which was a still more ornate gate with an iron arch above it. In the curve of the arch swung a black sign, its edges gilded, and with this legend printed upon it in gilt letters:
For Mariners' Women
"Without, the stormy winds increase, Within the harbor all is peace."
Behind the fence was a good-sized tract of lawn heavily shaded with trees, a brick walk, and at the rear a large house. The house itself was of the stately Colonial type and its simple dignity was in marked contrast to the fence.
Captain Kendrick recognized the establishment of course. It, with its next door neighbor the General Minot place, was for so many years the home of old Captain Sylvanus Seymour. Captain Sylvanus, during his lifetime, was active claimant for the throne of King of Bayport. He was the town's leading Democratic politician, its wealthiest citizen, with possibly one exception—its most lavish entertainer—with the same possible exception—and when the Governor came to the Cape on "Cattle Show Day" he was sure to be a guest at the Seymour place—unless General Ashahel Minot, who was the exception mentioned—had gotten his invitation accepted first. For General Minot was Bayport's leading Whig, as Captain Sylvanus was its leading Democrat, and the rivalry between the two was intense. Nevertheless, they were, in public at least, extremely polite and friendly, and when they did agree—as on matters concerning the village tax rate and the kind of doctrine permitted to be preached in the Orthodox meeting-house—their agreement was absolute and overwhelming. In their day the Captain and the General dominated Bayport by sea and land.
But that day had passed. They had both been dead for some years. Captain Seymour died first and his place and property were inherited by his maiden daughter, Miss Lobelia Seymour. Sears Kendrick remembered Lobelia as a dressy, romantic spinster, very much in evidence at the church socials and at meetings of the Shakespeare Reading Society, and who sang a somewhat shrill soprano in the choir.
Now, as he looked over the side of Judah Cahoon's truck-wagon and saw the sign hanging beneath the arch above the gate of the Seymour place he began dimly to remember other things, bits of news embodied in letters which his sister, Sarah Macomber, had written him at various times. Lobelia Seymour had—she had done something with the family home, something unusual. What was it? Why, yes....
"Judah," he said, "Lobelia Seymour turned that place into a—a sort of home, didn't she?"
Judah twisted on the wagon seat to stare at him.
"What are you askin' me that for, Cap'n Sears?" he demanded. "You know more about it than I do, I guess likely. Anyhow, you ought to; you was brought up in Bayport; I wasn't."
"Yes, but I've been away from it ten times longer than I've been in it. I'd forgotten all about Lobelia. Seems to me Sarah wrote me somethin' about her, though, and that she had turned her father's place into a home for women."
"For mariners' women, that's what she calls it. Didn't you see it on the sign? Ho, ho! that's a good one, ain't it, Cap'n Sears? 'Mariners' women!' Course what it means is sea cap'ns widders and sisters and such, but it does sound kind of Brigham Youngy, don't it? Haw, haw! Well, fur's that goes I have known mariners that—Hi! 'Vast heavin' there! What in time you tryin' to do, carry away that gate post? Whoa! Jumpin' creepin', limpin'—— Whoa! Look at the critter!" in huge disgust and referring to the white horse, who had suddenly evinced a desire to turn in at a narrow driveway and to gallop while doing so. "Look at him!" repeated Judah. "When I go up to the depot he'll stand right in the middle of the railroad track and go to sleep. I have to whale the timbers out of him to get him awake enough to step ahead so's a train of cars won't stave in his broadside. But get him home here where he can see the barn, the place where he knows I stow the oats, and he wants to run right over top of a stone wall. Can't hardly hold him, I can't. Who-a-a!... Well, Cap'n Sears, here we be at the General Minot place. Here's where I sling my hammock these days."
Kendrick looked about him, at the grassy back yard, with the ancient settee beneath the locust tree, the raspberry and currant bushes along the wall, the venerable apple and pear trees on the other side of the wall, at the trellis over the back door and the grape vine heavily festooning it, at the big weather-beaten barn, carriage house and pig-pens beyond. Turning, he looked upward at the high rambling house, its dormers and gables, its white clapboards and green window blinds. The sunlight streamed over it, but beneath the vine-hung lattice and under the locust tree were coolness and shadow. The wing of the big house, projecting out to the corner of the drive, shut off the view to or from the road. Somehow, the whole yard, with its peace and quiet and sunshine and shadow, and above all, its retirement, made a great appeal. It seemed so homelike, so shut away, so comforting, like a sheltered little backwater where a storm-beaten craft might lie snug.
Mr. Cahoon made anxious inquiry.
"What do you think of it, Cap'n?" he asked.
His visitor did not reply. Instead he said, "Judah, I'd like to see your quarters inside, may I?"
"Sartin sure you may. Right this way. Look out for the rocks in the channel," indicating the brick floor beneath the lattice. "Two or three of them bricks stick up more'n they ought to. Twice since I've been here the stem of one of my boots has fetched up on them bricks and I've all but pitch-poled. Take your time, Cap'n Sears, take your time. Here, lean on my shoulder, I'll pilot you."
The captain smiled. "Much obliged, Judah," he said, "but I shan't need your shoulder. There aren't any stairs to climb, are there? Stair climbin' is too much for me yet awhile. Perhaps it will always be. I don't know."
The tone in which he uttered the last sentence caused his companion to turn his head and regard him with concern.
"Sho, sho, sho!" he exclaimed, hastily. "What kind of talk's that, Cap'n! I'll live to see you shin up and hang your hat on the main truck yet.... There, here's the galley. Like it, do you?"
The "galley" was, of course, the kitchen. It was huge and low and very old-fashioned. Also it was, just now, spotlessly clean. From it opened the woodshed, and toward the front, the dining room.
"I don't eat in here much," observed Judah, referring to the dining room. "Generally mess in the galley. Comes more natural to me. The settin' room, and back parlor and front parlor are out for'ard yonder. Come on, Cap'n Sears."
The captain shook his head. "Never mind them just now," he said. "I want to see the bedrooms, those you use, Judah. That is, unless they're up aloft."
"No, no. Right on the lower deck, both of 'em. Course there is plenty more up aloft, but, as I told you, I never bother 'em. Here's my berth," opening a door from the sitting room. "And here's what I call my spare stateroom. I keep it ready for comp'ny. Not that I ever have any, you understand."
Judah's bedroom was small and snug. The "spare stateroom" was a trifle larger. In both were the old-fashioned mahogany furniture of our great-grandfathers. Mr. Cahoon apologized for it.
"Kind of old-timey stuff down below here," he explained. "Just common folks used these rooms, I judge likely. But you'd ought to see them up on the quarter deck. There's your high-toned fixin's! Marble tops to the bureaus and tables and washstands, and fruit—peaches and pears and all sorts—carved out on the headboards of the beds, and wreaths on the walls all made out of shells, and—and kind of brass doodads at the tops of the window curtains. Style, don't talk!... Sort of a pretty look-off through that deadlight, ain't there, Cap'n Sears? Seems so to me."
Kendrick had raised the window shade of the spare stateroom and was looking out. The view extended across the rolling hills and little pine groves and cranberry bogs, to the lower road with its white houses and shade trees. And beyond the lower road were more hills and pines, a pretty little lake—Crowell's Pond, it was called—sand dunes and then the blue water of the Bay. The captain looked at the view for a few moments, then, turning, looked once more at the room and its furniture.
"So you've never had a passenger in your spare stateroom, Judah?" he asked.
"Nary one, not yet."
"Nary one. Don't know nobody to expect."
"But you think it would be all right if you did have some one? Your er—owner—young Minot, I mean, wouldn't object?"
"Object! No, no. He told me to. 'I should think you'd die livin' here alone,' he says. 'Why don't you take a boarder? I would if I was you.'"
Sears Kendrick stopped looking at the room and its furniture and turned his gaze upon his former cook.
"Take a boarder?" he repeated. "Did Ogden Minot tell you to take a boarder? And do you think he meant it?"
"Sartin sure he meant it. He don't care what I do—in reason, of course."
"Humph!... Well, then, Judah, why don't you take one?"
"Eh? Take one what? A boarder? Who'd I take, for thunder's sakes?"
Captain Kendrick smiled.
"Me," he said.
For the half hour which followed the captain's utterance of that simple little word, "Me," exclamation, protestation and argument heated and unwontedly disturbed the atmosphere of the Minot spare stateroom and when the discussion adjourned there, of the little back yard. The old white horse, left to himself and quite forgotten, placidly meandered on until he reached a point where he could reach the tender foliage of a young pear tree which leaned over the wall toward him. Then, with a sigh of content, he proceeded to devour the tree. No one paid the least attention to him. Captain Kendrick, now seated upon the bench beneath the locust, was quietly but persistently explaining why he desired to become a boarder and lodger at Mr. Cahoon's quarters on the after lower deck of the General Minot house, and Judah was vociferously and profanely expostulating against such an idea.
"It ain't fittin', I tell you," he declared, over and over again. "It ain't fittin', it's the craziest notion ever I heard tell of. What'll folks think if they know you're here—you, Cap'n Sears Kendrick, that all hands knows is the smartest cap'n that ever sailed out of Boston harbor? What'll they say if they know you've hove anchor along of me, stayin' here in the—in the fo'castle of this house; eatin' the grub I cook—"
"I've eaten your cookin' for a good many months at a stretch, Judah. You never heard me find any fault with it, did you?"
"Don't make no odds. That's different, Cap'n Sears, and you know 'tis. It's ridiculous, stark, ravin' ridiculous."
"So you don't care for my company?"
"Don't tuk so! Wouldn't I be proud to have ye? Wouldn't I ruther have you aboard here than anybody else on earth? Course I would!"
"All right. And you're goin' to have me. So that's all settled."
"Settled! Who said 'twas settled? Course 'tain't settled. You don't understand, Cap'n Sears. 'Tain't how I feel about it. 'Tain't even maybe how you feel about it. But how'll your sister feel about it? How'll Joel feel? How'll the doctor feel? How'll the folks in town feel? How'll—"
"Oh, shh! shh! Avast, Judah! How'll the cat feel? And the pig? What do I care? How'll your old horse feel if he eats the other half of that pear tree? That's considerably more important."
Judah turned, saw the combination of ancient equine and youthful tree and rushed bellowing to the rescue of the latter. When he returned, empty of profanity and copiously perspiring, his former skipper was ready for him.
"Listen, Judah," he said. "Listen, and keep your main hatch closed for five minutes, if you can. I want to come here to board with you for a while and I've got the best reasons on earth. Keep still and I'll tell you again what they are."
He proceeded to give those reasons. They were that he had little money and must therefore live inexpensively. He would not remain at his sister's because she had more than enough care and work in her own family. George Kent boarded with her and one boarder was sufficient. Then—and this was the principal reason for selecting the General Minot spare stateroom—he wished to live somewhere away from observation, where he could be alone, or nearly alone, where he would not be plagued with questions.
"You see, Judah," he said, "I've had a bump in more ways than one. My pride was knocked flat as well as my pocket book. The doctor says I've got to stay ashore for a good while. He says it will be months before I'm ready for sea—if I'm ever ready—"
"Hold on, hold on! Cap'n Sears, you mustn't talk so. Course you'll be ready."
"All right, we'll hope I will. But while I'm gettin' ready to be ready I want to lie snug. I don't want to see a whole lot of people and have to listen to—to sympathy and all that. I've made a fool of myself, and that kind of a fool doesn't deserve sympathy. And I don't want it, anyhow. Give me a pair of sound spars and my health once more and you won't find me beggin' for sympathy—no, nor anything else.... But there," he added, straightening and throwing back his shoulders in the way Judah had seen him do so often on shipboard and which his mates had learned to recognize as a sign that the old man's mind was made up, "that's enough of that. Let's stick to the course. I like this place of yours, Judah, and I'm comin' here to live. I'm weak yet and you can throw me out, of course," he added, "but I tell you plainly you can't talk me out, so it's no use to try."
Nevertheless, Mr. Cahoon kept on trying and, when he did give in only gave in halfway. If Captain Sears was bound to do such a fool thing he didn't know how he was going to stop him, but at least he did insist that the captain should take a trial cruise before signing on for the whole voyage.
"I tell you what you do, Cap'n Sears," he said. "You make me a little visit of—of two, three days, say. Then, if you cal'late you can stand the grub—and me—and if the way Bayport folks'll be talkin' ain't enough to send you back to Sary's again, why—why, then I suppose you can stay right along, if you want to. 'Twould be fine to have you aboard! Whew!"
He grinned from ear to ear. The captain accepted the compromise.
"All right, Judah," he said. "We'll call the first few days a visit and I'll begin by stayin' to dinner now. How'll that do, eh?"
Mr. Cahoon affirmed that it would do finely. The only drawback was that there was nothing in the house for dinner.
"I was cal'latin' to go down to the shore," he said, "and dig a bucket of clams. Course they'll do well enough for me, but for you—"
"For me they will be just the ticket," declared Kendrick. "Go ahead and dig 'em, Judah. And on the way stop and tell Sarah I'm goin' to stay here and help eat 'em. After dinner—well, after dinner I shall have to go back there again, I suppose, but to-morrow I'm comin' up here to stay."
So, still under protest, Judah, having unloaded the seaweed, climbed once more to the high seat of the truck-wagon and the old horse dragged him out of the yard. After the row of trees bordering the road had hidden him from sight Kendrick could hear the rattle of the cart and a fragment of the Dreadnought chantey.
"Now the Dreadnought's becalmed on the banks of Newfoundland, Where the water's all green and the bottom's all sand. Says the fish of the ocean that swim to and fro: 'She's the Liverpool packet, good Lord, let her go.'"
Rattle and chantey died away in the distance. Quiet, warm and lazy, settled down upon the back yard of the General Minot place. A robin piped occasionally and, from somewhere off to the left, hens clucked, but these were the only sounds. Kendrick judged that the hens must belong to neighbors; Judah had expressed detestation of all poultry. There was not sufficient breeze to stir the branches of the locust or the leaves of the grapevine. The captain leaned back on the settee and yawned. He felt a strong desire to go to sleep.
Now sleeping in the daytime had always been a trick which he despised and against which he had railed all his life. He had declared times without number that a man who slept in the daytime—unless of course he had been on watch all night or something like that—was a loafer, a good for nothing, a lubber too lazy to be allowed on earth. The day was a period made for decent, respectable people to work in, and for a man who did not work, and love to work, Captain Sears Kendrick had no use whatever. Many so-called able seamen, and even first and second mates, had received painstaking instructions in this section of their skipper's code.
But now—now it was different. Why shouldn't he sleep in the daytime? There was nothing else for him to do. He had no business to transact, no owners to report to, no vessel to load or unload or to fit for sea. He had heard the doctor's whisper—not meant for his ears—that his legs might never be right again, and the word "might" had, he believed, been substituted for one of much less ambiguous meaning. No, all he was fit for, he reflected bitterly, was to sit in the sun and sleep, like an old dog with the rheumatism. He sighed, settled himself upon the bench and closed his eyes.
But he opened them again almost at once. During that very brief interval of darkness there had flashed before his mind a picture of a small park in New York as he had once seen it upon a summer Sunday afternoon. The park walks had been bordered with rows of benches and upon each bench slumbered at least one human derelict who, apparently, realized his worthlessness and had given up the fight. Captain Kendrick sat upright on the settee, beneath the locust tree. Was he, too, giving up—surrendering to Fate? No, by the Lord, he was not! And he was not going to drop off to sleep on that settee like one of those tramps on a park bench.
He rose to his feet, picked up his cane, and started to walk—somewhere. Direction made little difference, so long as he kept awake and kept going. There was a path leading off between the raspberry and currant bushes, and slowly, but stubbornly, he limped along that path. The path ended at a gate in a white picket fence. The gate was unlatched and there was an orchard on the other side of it. Captain Sears opened the gate and limped on under the apple trees. They were old trees and large and the shade they cast was cool and pleasant. The soft green slope beneath them tempted him strongly. He was beginning to realize that those shaky legs of his were tiring in this, the longest walk they had attempted since the accident. He had a mind to sit down upon the bank beneath the apple trees and rest. Then he remembered the mental picture of the tramps on the park benches and stubbornly refused to yield. Leaning more heavily upon his cane, he limped on.
The path emerged from beneath the apple trees, ascended a little rise and disappeared around the shoulder of a high thick clump of lilacs. Kendrick, tiring more and more rapidly, plodded on. His suffering limbs were, so to speak, shrieking for mercy but he would not give it to them. He set himself a "stint"; he would see what was beyond the clump of lilacs, then he would rest, and then he would hobble back to the Minot yard. Incidentally he realized that he had been a fool ever to leave it.
His teeth grimly set and each step a labor, he plodded up the little rise and turned the corner of the lilac bushes. There he stopped, not entirely because his "stint" was done, but because what he saw surprised him.
Beyond the lilacs was a small garden, or rather a series of small gardens. The divisions between them appeared to be exactly the same size and the plots themselves precisely the same size and shape. There were—although the captain did not learn this until later—seven of these plots, each exactly six by nine feet. But there resemblance ceased, for each was planted and arranged with a marked individuality. For example, the one nearest the lilac bushes was laid out in a sort of checkerboard pattern of squares, one square containing a certain sort of old-fashioned flower and its neighbors other varieties. The plot adjoining the checkerboard was arranged in diamonds and spirals; the planting here was floral also, whereas the next was evidently utilitarian, being given up entirely to corn, potatoes, onions, beets and other vegetables. And the next seemed to be covered with nothing except a triumphant growth of weeds.
At the rear of these odd garden plots was a little octagonal building, evidently a summer-house. Over its door, a door fronting steps leading down to the gardens, was a sign bearing the name "The Eyrie." And behind the summer-house was a stretch of rather shabby lawn, a half dozen trees, and the rear of a large house. Captain Sears recognized the house as the Seymour residence, now the "Fair Harbor." He had strayed off the course and was trespassing upon his neighbors' premises. This fact was immediately brought to his attention. From somewhere at the rear of the gardens a shrill feminine voice exclaimed:
"Mercy on us! Who's that?"
And another feminine voice chimed in:
"Eh! I declare it's a man, ain't it?"
And the first voice observed sharply:
"Of course it is. You didn't think I thought it was a cow, did you?"
"But what's he doin' here? Is he a tramp?
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out. Hi! Here! You—man—where are you going?"
Captain Sears had, by this time, located the voices as coming from the "Eyrie," the summer-house with the poetical name. He had so far, however, been able to see nothing of the speakers. But now the tangle of woodbine and morning-glory which draped the front of the summer-house was drawn aside and revealed a rustic window—or unglazed window opening—with two heads framed in it like a double portrait. Both of these heads were feminine, but one was thin-faced and sharp-featured, and gray-haired, while the other was like a full moon—a full moon with several chins—and its hair was a startlingly vivid black parted in the middle and with a series of very regular ripples on each side.
It was the thin face which was hailing him. The other was merely staring, open-eyed and open-mouthed.
"Here, you—man!" repeated the shrill voice—belonging to the thin face. "Where are you going?"
The captain smiled. "Why, nowhere in particular, ma'am," he replied. "I was just figurin' that I'd gone about as far as I could this voyage."
His smile became a chuckle, but there were no symptoms of amusement visible upon the faces framed in the window of the Eyrie. The thin lips merely pressed tighter and the plump ones opened wider, that was all.
"Why don't you answer my question?" demanded the thin woman. "What are you doing on these premises?"
"Why, nothin' in particular, ma'am. I was just tryin' to take a little walk and not makin' a very good job at it."
There was an interruption here. The full moon broke in to ask a question of its own.
"Who is he? What's he talkin' about?" it demanded.
"I don't know who he is—yet."
"Well, what's he talkin' about? Make him speak louder."
"I will, if you give me a chance. He says he is taking a walk. What are you taking a walk in here for? Don't you know it isn't allowed?"
"Why, no, ma'am, I didn't. In fact I didn't realize I was in here until I—well—until I got here."
"What is he sayin'?" demanded the moon-face again, and somewhat testily. "I can't hear a word."
Now the captain's tone had been at least ordinarily loud, so it was evident that the plump woman's hearing was defective. Her curiosity, however, was not in the least impaired.
"What's that man talkin' about now?" she persisted. Her companion became impatient.
"Oh, I don't know," she snapped. "Do give me a chance, won't you? I think he's been drinking. He says he doesn't know where he is or how he got here."
Kendrick thought it high time to protest. Also to raise his voice when doing so.
"That wasn't exactly it," he shouted. "I was takin' a little walk, that's all. I have to navigate pretty slow for my legs aren't just right."
"What did he say wa'n't right?" demanded the plump female.
"Eh! Legs! What's he talkin' about his legs for?"
"Oh, I don't know! Do be still a minute. It's his head that isn't right, I guess he means.... Don't you know you're trespassing? What do you mean by coming in here?"
"Well, ma'am, I didn't mean anything in particular. I just happened in by accident. I'm sorry."
"Humph! You didn't come in here to run off with anything that didn't belong to you, I hope."
The captain looked at her for a moment. Then his lip twitched.
"No, ma'am," he said, solemnly, "I didn't come with that idea—but—"
"But? What do you mean by 'but'?"
"But I didn't realize what there was in here to run off with. If I had.... There, I guess I'd better go. Good day, ladies. Sorry I troubled you."
He lifted his cap, turned, and limped out of sight around the clump of lilacs. From behind him came a series of indignant gasps and exclamations.
"Why—why—Well, I never in all my born days! The saucy, impudent—"
And the voice of the moon-faced one raised in bewildered entreaty:
"What was it? What did he say? Elviry Snowden, why don't you tell me what 'twas he said?"
Captain Kendrick hobbled back to the Minot yard. He hobbled through the orchard gate, leaving it ajar, and reaching the bench beneath the locust tree, collapsed upon it. For some time he was conscious of very little except the ache in his legs and the fact that breathing was a difficult and jerky operation. Then, as the fatigue and pain ceased to be as insistent, the memory of his interview with the pair in the Eyrie returned to him and he began to chuckle. After a time he fancied that he heard a sympathetic chuckle behind him. It seemed to come from the vegetable garden, Judah's garden, which, so Mr. Cahoon told his former skipper, he had set out himself and was "sproutin' and comin' up better'n ary other garden in the town of Bayport, if I do say it as shouldn't."
Kendrick could not imagine who could be chuckling in that garden. Also he could not imagine where the chuckler could be hiding, unless it was behind the rows of raspberry and currant bushes. Slowly and painfully he rose to his feet and peered over the bushes. Then the mystery was explained. The "chuckles" were clucks. A flock of at least a dozen healthy and energetic hens were enthusiastically busy in the Cahoon beds. Their feet were moving like miniature steam shovels and showers of earth and infant vegetables were moving likewise. Judah had boasted that the fruits of his planting were "comin' up." If he had seen them at that moment he would have realized how fast they were coming up.
The sight aroused Captain Kendrick's ire. He was, in a way of speaking, guardian of that vegetable patch. Judah had not formally appointed him to that position, but he had gone away and, by the fact of so doing, had left it in his charge. He felt responsible for its safety.
"Shoo!" shouted the captain and, leaning upon his cane, limped toward the garden.
"Shoo!" he roared again. The hens paid about as much attention to the roar as a gang of ditch diggers might pay to the buzz of a mosquito. Obviously something more drastic than shooing was necessary. The captain stooped and picked up a stone. He threw the stone and hit a hen. She rose in the air with a frightened squawk, ran around in a circle, and then, coming to anchor in a patch of tiny beets, resumed excavating operations.
Kendrick picked up another stone, a bigger one, and threw that. He missed the mark this time, but the shot was not entirely without results; it hit one of Mr. Cahoon's cucumber frames and smashed a pane to atoms. The crash of glass had the effect of causing some of the fowl to stop digging and appear nervous. But these were in the minority.
The captain was, by this time, annoyed. He was on the verge of losing his temper. Beyond the little garden and between the raspberry and currant bushes he caught a glimpse of the path and the gate through which he had just come on his way back from the grounds of the Fair Harbor. That gate he saw, with a twinge of conscience, was wide open. Obviously he must have neglected to latch it on passing through, it had swung open, and the hens had taken advantage of the sally port to make their foray upon Judah's pet vegetables. They were Fair Harbor hens. Somehow this fact did not tend to deepen Sears Kendrick's affection for them.
"Shoo! Clear out, you pesky nuisances!" he shouted, and waving his cane, charged laboriously down upon the fowl. They retreated before him, but their retreat was strategic. They moved from beets to cabbages, from cabbages to young corn, from corn to onions. And they scratched and pecked as they withdrew. Nevertheless, they were withdrawing and in the direction of the open gate; in the midst of his panting and pain the captain found a slight comfort in the fact that he was driving the creatures toward the gate.
At last they were almost there—that is, the main body. Kendrick noted, with sudden uneasiness, that there were stragglers. A gaily decorated old rooster, a fowl with a dissipated and immoral swagger and a knowing, devil-may-care tilt of the head, was sidling off to the left. Two or three young pullets were following the lead of this ancient pirate, evidently fascinated by his recklessness. The captain turned to head off the wanderers. They squawked and ran hither and thither. He succeeded in turning them back, but, at the moment of his success, heard triumphant cluckings at his rear. The rest of the flock had, while his attention was diverted by the rooster and his followers, galloped joyfully back to the garden again. Now, as Captain Sears gazed, the rooster and his satellites flew to join them. All hands—or, more literally, all feet—resumed excavating with the abandon of conscientious workers striving to make up lost time.
And now Sears Kendrick did lose his temper. Probably at another time he might have laughed, but now he was tired, in pain, and in no mood to see the humorous side of the situation. He expressed his opinion of the hens and the rooster, using quarter deck idioms and withholding little. If the objects of his wrath were disturbed they did not show it. If they were shocked they hid their confusion in the newly turned earth of Judah Cahoon's squash bed.