Cape Cod Stories
Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 4 out of 4
found Peter T. You'd ought to seen Peter stare when we hove in
sight of the candidate.
"Thunder!" says he. "Is this Exhibit One, Barzilla? Where'd you
pick up the Chinese giant?"
I done the polite, mentioning Brown's name, hesitating on t'other
"Er-Jones," says the human lighthouse. "Er-yes; Jones."
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Jones," says Peter. "So you want to be a
waiter, do you? For how much per?"
"Oh, I don't know. I'll begin at the bottom, being a green hand.
Twenty a week or so; whatever you're accustomed to paying."
Brown choked. "The figure's all right," he says, "only it covers a
month down here."
"Right!" says Jones, not a bit shook up. "A month goes."
Peter stepped back and looked him over, beginning with the tan
shoes and ending with the whirligig hat.
"Jonesy," says he, finally, "you're on. Take him to the servants'
A little later, when I had the chance and had Brown alone, I says
"Peter," says I, "for the land sakes what did you hire the emperor
for? A blind man could see HE wa'n't no waiter. And we don't need
him anyhow; no more'n a cat needs three tails. Why--"
But he was back at me before I could wink. "Need him?" he says.
"Why, Barzilla, we need him more than the old Harry needs a
conscience. Take a bird's-eye view of him! Size him up! He puts
all the rest of the Greek statues ten miles in the shade. If I
could only manage to get his picture in the papers we'd have all
the romantic old maids in Boston down here inside of a week; and
there's enough of THEM to keep one hotel going till judgment. Need
Next morning we was at the breakfast-table in my branch
establishment, me and Mabel and the five boarders. All hands was
doing their best to start a famine in the fruit market, and Dr.
Blatt was waving a banana and cheering us with a yarn about an old
lady that his Burdock Bitters had h'isted bodily out of the tomb.
He was at the most exciting part, the bitters and the undertaker
coming down the last lap neck and neck, and an even bet who'd win
the patient, when the kitchen door opens and in marches the waiter
with the tray full of dishes of "cereal." Seems to me 'twas
chopped hay we had that morning--either that or shavings; I always
get them breakfast foods mixed up.
But 'twa'n't the hay that made everybody set up and take notice.
'Twas the waiter himself. Our regular steward was a spindling
little critter with curls and eye-glasses who answered to the hail
of "Percy." This fellow clogged up the scenery like a pet
elephant, and was down in the shipping list as "Jones."
The doc left his invalid hanging on the edge of the grave, and
stopped and stared. Old Mrs. Bounderby h'isted the gold-mounted
double spyglass she had slung round her neck and took an
observation. Her daughter "Maizie" fetched a long breath and shut
her eyes, like she'd seen her finish and was resigned to it.
"Well, Mr. Jones," says I, soon's I could get my breath, "this is
kind of unexpected, ain't it? Thought you was booked for the main
"Yes, sir," he says, polite as a sewing-machine agent, "I was, but
Percy and I have exchanged. Cereal this morning, madam?"
Mrs. Bounderby took her measure of shavings and Jones's measure at
the same time. She had him labeled "Danger" right off; you could
tell that by the way she spread her wings over "Maizie." But I
wa'n't watching her just then. I was looking at Mabel Seabury--
looking and wondering.
The housekeeper was white as the tablecloth. She stared at the
Jones man as if she couldn't believe her eyes, and her breath come
short and quick. I thought sure she was going to cry. And what
she ate of that meal wouldn't have made a lunch for a hearty
When 'twas finished I went out on the porch to think things over.
The dining room winder was open and Jonesy was clearing the table.
All of a sudden I heard him say, low and earnest:
"Well, aren't you going to speak to me?"
The answer was in a girl's voice, and I knew the voice. It said:
"You! YOU! How COULD you? Why did you come?"
"You didn't think I could stay away, did you?"
"But how did you know I was here? I tried so hard to keep it a
"It took me a month, but I worked it out finally. Aren't you glad
to see me?"
She burst out crying then, quiet, but as if her heart was broke.
"Oh!" she sobs. "How could you be so cruel! And they've been so
kind to me here."
I went away then, thinking harder than ever. At dinner Jonesy done
the waiting, but Mabel wa'n't on deck. She had a headache, the
cook said, and was lying down. 'Twas the same way at supper, and
after supper Peter Brown comes to me, all broke up, and says he:
"There's merry clink to pay," he says. "Mabel's going to leave."
"No?" says I. "She ain't neither!"
"Yes, she is. She says she's going to-morrer. She won't tell me
why, and I've argued with her for two hours. She's going to quit,
and I'd rather enough sight quit myself. What'll we do?" says he.
I couldn't help him none, and he went away, moping and miserable.
All round the place everybody was talking about the "lovely" new
waiter, and to hear the girls go on you'd think the Prince of Wales
had landed. Jonadab was the only kicker, and he said 'twas bad
enough afore, but now that new dude had shipped, 'twa'n't the place
for a decent, self-respecting man.
"How you goin' to order that Grand Panjandrum around?" he says.
"Great land of Goshen! I'd as soon think of telling the Pope of
Rome to empty a pail of swill as I would him. Why don't he stay to
home and be a tailor's sign or something? Not prance around here
with his high-toned airs. I'm glad you've got him, Barzilla, and
Well, most of that was plain jealousy, so I didn't contradict.
Besides I was too busy thinking. By eight o'clock I'd made up my
mind and I went hunting for Jones.
I found him, after a while, standing by the back door and staring
up at the chamber winders as if he missed something. I asked him
to come along with me. Told him I had a big cargo of talk aboard,
and wouldn't be able to cruise on an even keel till I'd unloaded
some of it. So he fell into my wake, looking puzzled, and in a
jiffy we was planted in the rocking chairs up in my bedroom.
"Look here," says I, "Mr.--Mr.--"
"Jones," says he.
"Oh, yes--Jones. It's a nice name."
"I remember it beautifully," says he, smiling.
"All right, Mr. Jones. Now, to begin with, we'll agree that it
ain't none of my darn business, and I'm an old gray-headed nosey,
and the like of that. But, being that I AM old--old enough to be
your dad, though that's my only recommend for the job--I'm going to
preach a little sermon. My text is found in the Old Home Hotel,
Wellmouth, first house on the left. It's Miss Seabury," says I.
He was surprised, I guess, but he never turned a hair. "Indeed?"
he says. "She is the--the housekeeper, isn't she?"
"She was," says I, "but she leaves to-morrer morning."
THAT hit him between wind and water.
"No?" he sings out, setting up straight and staring at me. "Not
"You bet," I says. "Now down in this part of the chart we've come
to think more of that young lady than a cat does of the only kitten
left out of the bag in the water bucket. Let me tell you about
So I went ahead, telling him how Mabel had come to us, why she
come, how well she was liked, how much she liked us, and a whole
lot more. I guess he knew the most of it, but he was too polite
not to act interested.
"And now, all at once," says I, "she gives up being happy and well
and contented, and won't eat, and cries, and says she's going to
leave. There's a reason, as the advertisement folks say, and I'm
going to make a guess at it. I believe it calls itself Jones."
His under jaw pushed out a little and his eyebrows drew together.
But all he said was, "Well?"
"Yes," I says. "And now, Mr. Jones, I'm old, as I said afore, and
nosey maybe, but I like that girl. Perhaps I might come to like
you, too; you can't tell. Under them circumstances, and with the
understanding that it didn't go no farther, maybe you might give me
a glimpse of the lay of the land. Possibly I might have something
to say that would help. I'm fairly white underneath, if I be
sunburned. What do you think about it?"
He didn't answer right off; seemed to be chewing it over. After a
spell he spoke.
"Mr. Wingate," says he, "with the understanding that you mentioned,
I don't mind supposing a case. Suppose you was a chap in college.
Suppose you met a girl in the vicinity that was--well, was about
the best ever. Suppose you came to find that life wasn't worth a
continental without that girl. Then suppose you had a dad with
money, lots of money. Suppose the old fo--the gov'nor, I mean--
without even seeing her or even knowing her name or a thing about
her, said no. Suppose you and the old gentleman had a devil of a
row, and broke off for keeps. Then suppose the girl wouldn't
listen to you under the circumstances. Talked rot about 'wasted
future' and 'throwing your life away' and so on. Suppose, when you
showed her that you didn't care a red for futures, she ran away
from you and wouldn't tell where she'd gone. Suppose--well, I
guess that's enough supposing. I don't know why I'm telling you
these things, anyway."
He stopped and scowled at the floor, acting like he was sorry he
spoke. I pulled at my pipe a minute or so and then says I:
"Hum!" I says, "I presume likely it's fair to suppose that this
break with the old gent is for good?"
He didn't answer, but he didn't need to; the look on his face was
"Yes," says I. "Well, it's likewise to be supposed that the idea--
the eventual idea--is marriage, straight marriage, hey?"
He jumped out of his chair. "Why, damn you!" he says. "I'll--"
"All right. Set down and be nice. I was fairly sure of my
soundings, but it don't do no harm to heave the lead. I ask your
pardon. Well, what you going to support a wife on--her kind of a
wife? A summer waiter's job at twenty a month?"
He set down, but he looked more troubled than ever. I was sorry
for him; I couldn't help liking the boy.
"Suppose she keeps her word and goes away," says I. "What then?"
"I'll go after her."
"Suppose she still sticks to her principles and won't have you?
Where'll you go, then?"
"To the hereafter," says he, naming the station at the end of the
"Oh, well, there's no hurry about that. Most of us are sure of a
free one-way pass to that port some time or other, 'cording to the
parson's tell. See here, Jones; let's look at this thing like a
couple of men, not children. You don't want to keep chasing that
girl from pillar to post, making her more miserable than she is
now. And you ain't in no position to marry her. The way to show a
young woman like her that you mean business and are going to be
wuth cooking meals for is to get the best place you can and start
in to earn a living and save money. Now, Mr. Brown's father-in-law
is a man by the name of Dillaway, Dillaway of the Consolidated Cash
Stores. He'll do things for me if I ask him to, and I happen to
know that he's just started a branch up to Providence and is there
now. Suppose I give you a note to him, asking him, as a favor to
me, to give you the best job he can. He'll do it, I know. After
that it's up to you. This is, of course, providing that you start
for Providence to-morrer morning. What d'you say?"
He was thinking hard. "Suppose I don't make good?" he says. "I
never worked in my life. And suppose she--"
"Oh, suppose your granny's pet hen hatched turkeys," I says,
getting impatient, "I'll risk your making good. I wa'n't a first
mate, shipping fo'mast hands ten years, for nothing. I can
generally tell beet greens from cabbage without waiting to smell
'em cooking. And as for her, it seems to me that a girl who thinks
enough of a feller to run away from him so's he won't spile his
future, won't like him no less for being willing to work and wait
for her. You stay here and think it over. I'm going out for a
When I come back Jonesy was ready for me.
"Mr. Wingate," says he, "it's a deal. I'm going to go you, though
I think you're plunging on a hundred-to-one shot. Some day I'll
tell you more about myself, maybe. But now I'm going to take your
advice and the position. I'll do my best, and I must say you're a
brick. Thanks awfully."
"Good enough!" I says. "Now you go and tell her, and I'll write
the letter to Dillaway."
So the next forenoon Peter T. Brown was joyful all up one side
because Mabel had said she'd stay, and mournful all down the other
because his pet college giant had quit almost afore he started. I
kept my mouth shut, that being the best play I know of, nine cases
out of ten.
I went up to the depot with Jonesy to see him off.
"Good-by, old man," he says, shaking hands. "You'll write me once
in a while, telling me how she is, and--and so on?"
"Bet you!" says I. "I'll keep you posted up. And let's hear how
you tackle the Consolidated Cash business."
July and the first two weeks in August moped along and everything
at the Old Home House kept about the same. Mabel was in mighty
good spirits, for her, and she got prettier every day. I had a
couple of letters from Jones, saying that he guessed he could get
bookkeeping through his skull in time without a surgical operation,
and old Dillaway was down over one Sunday and was preaching large
concerning the "find" my candidate was for the Providence branch.
So I guessed I hadn't made no mistake.
I had considerable fun with Cap'n Jonadab over his not landing a
rich husband for the Seabury girl. Looked like the millionaire
crop was going to be a failure that summer.
"Aw, belay!" says he, short as baker's pie crust. "The season
ain't over yet. You better take a bath in the salt mack'rel kag;
you're too fresh to keep this hot weather."
Talking "husband" to him was like rubbing pain-killer on a scalded
pup, so I had something to keep me interested dull days. But one
morning he comes to me, excited as a mouse at a cat show, and says
"Ah, ha! what did I tell you? I've got one!"
"I see you have," says I. "Want me to send for the doctor?"
"Stop your foolishing," he says. "I mean I've got a millionaire.
He's coming to-night, too. One of the biggest big-bugs there is in
New York. Ah, ha! what did I tell you?"
He was fairly boiling over with gloat, but from between the bubbles
I managed to find out that the new boarder was a big banker from
New York, name of Van Wedderburn, with a barrel of cash and a
hogshead of dyspepsy. He was a Wall Street "bear," and a steady
diet of lamb with mint sass had fetched him to where the doctors
said 'twas lay off for two months or be laid out for keeps.
"And I've fixed it that he's to stop at your house, Barzilla,"
crows Jonadab. "And when he sees Mabel--well, you know what she's
done to the other men folks," he says.
"Humph!" says I, "maybe he's got dyspepsy of the heart along with
the other kind. She might disagree with him. What makes you so
"'Cause he's a widower," he says. "Them's the softest kind."
"Well, you ought to know," I told him. "You're one yourself. But,
from what I've heard, soft things are scarce in Wall Street. Bet
you seventy-five cents to a quarter it don't work."
He wouldn't take me, having scruples against betting--except when
he had the answer in his pocket. But he went away cackling joyful,
and that night Van Wedderburn arrived.
Van was a substantial-looking old relic, built on the lines of the
Boston State House, broad in the beam and with a shiny dome on top.
But he could qualify for the nervous dyspepsy class all right,
judging by his language to the depot-wagon driver. When he got
through making remarks because one of his trunks had been forgot,
that driver's quotation, according to Peter T., had "dropped to
thirty cents, with a second assessment called." I jedged the meals
at our table would be as agreeable as a dog-fight.
However, 'twas up to me, and I towed him in and made him acquainted
with Mabel. She wa'n't enthusiastic--having heard some of the
driver sermon, I cal'late--until I mentioned his name. Then she
gave a little gasp like. When Van had gone up to his rooms,
puffing like a donkey-engyne and growling 'cause there wa'n't no
elevators, she took me by the arm and says she:
"WHAT did you say his name was, Mr. Wingate?"
"Van Wedderburn," says I. "The New York millionaire one."
"Not of Van Wedderburn & Hamilton, the bankers?" she asks, eager.
"That's him," says I. "Why? Do you know him? Did his ma used to
do washing at your house?"
She laughed, but her face was all lit up and her eyes fairly shone.
I could have--but there! never mind.
"Oh, no," she says, "I don't know him, but I know of him--everybody
Well, everybody did, that's a fact, and the way Marm Bounderby and
Maizie was togged out at the supper-table was a sin and a shame.
And the way they poured gush over that bald-headed broker was
enough to make him slip out of his chair. Talk about "fishers of
men"! them Bounderbys was a whole seiner's crew in themselves.
But what surprised me was Mabel Seabury. She was dressed up, too;
not in the Bounderbys' style--collar-bones and diamonds--but in
plain white with lace fuzz. If she wa'n't peaches and cream, then
all you need is lettuce to make me a lobster salad.
And she was as nice to Van as if he was old Deuteronomy out of the
Bible. He set down to that meal with a face on him like a pair of
nutcrackers, and afore 'twas over he was laughing and eating apple
pie and telling funny yarns about robbing his "friends" in the
Street. I judged he'd be sorry for it afore morning, but I didn't
care for that. I was kind of worried myself; didn't understand it.
And I understood it less and less as the days went by. If she'd
been Maizie Bounderby, with two lines in each hand and one in her
teeth, she couldn't have done more to hook that old stock-broker.
She cooked little special dishes for his dyspepsy to play with, and
set with him on the piazza evenings, and laughed at his jokes, and
the land knows what. Inside of a fortni't he was a gone goose,
which wa'n't surprising--every other man being in the same fix--but
'TWAS surprising to see her helping the goneness along. All hands
was watching the game, of course, and it pretty nigh started a
mutiny at the Old Home. The Bounderbys packed up and lit out in
ten days, and none of the other women would speak to Mabel. They
didn't blame poor Mr. Van, you understand. 'Twas all her--"low,
And Jonadab! he wa'n't fit to live with. The third forenoon after
Van Wedderburn got there he come around and took the quarter bet.
And the way he crowed over me made my hands itch for a rope's end.
Finally I owned up to myself that I'd made a mistake; the girl was
a whitewashed tombstone and the whitewash was rubbing thin. That
night I dropped a line to poor Jonesy at Providence, telling him
that, if he could get a day off, maybe he'd better come down to
Wellmouth, and see to his fences; somebody was feeding cows in his
The next day was Labor Day, and what was left of the boarders was
going for a final picnic over to Baker's Grove at Ostable. We
went, three catboats full of us, and Van and Mabel Seabury was in
the same boat. We made the grove all right, and me and Jonadab had
our hands full, baking clams and chasing spiders out of the milk,
and doing all the chores that makes a picnic so joyfully miserable.
When the dinner dishes was washed I went off by myself to a quiet
bunch of bayberry bushes half a mile from the grove and laid down
to rest, being beat out.
I guess I fell asleep, and what woke me was somebody speaking close
by. I was going to get up and clear out, not being in the habit of
listening to other folks' affairs, but the very first words I heard
showed me that 'twas best, for the feelings of all concerned, to
lay still and keep on with my nap.
"Oh, no!" says Mabel Seabury, dreadful nervous and hurried-like;
"oh, no! Mr. Van Wedderburn, please don't say any more. I can't
listen to you, I'm so sorry."
"Do you mean that--really mean it?" asks Van, his voice rather
shaky and seemingly a good deal upset. "My dear young lady, I
realize that I'm twice your age and more, and I suppose that I was
an old fool to hope; but I've had trouble lately, and I've been
very lonely, and you have been so kind that I thought--I did hope--
I-- Can't you?"
"No," says she, more nervous than ever, and shaky, too, but
decided. "No! Oh, NO! It's all my fault. I wanted you to like
me; I wanted you to like me very much. But not this way. I'm--
I'm--so sorry. Please forgive me."
She walked on then, fast, and toward the grove, and he followed,
slashing at the weeds with his cane, and acting a good deal as if
he'd like to pick up his playthings and go home. When they was out
of sight I set up and winked, large and comprehensive, at the
scenery. It looked to me like I was going to collect Jonadab's
That night as I passed the lilac bushes by the gate, somebody steps
out and grabs my arm. I jumped, looked up, and there, glaring down
at me out of the clouds, was friend Jones from Providence, R. I.
"Wingate," he whispers, fierce, "who is the man? And where is he?"
"Easy," I begs. "Easy on that arm. I might want to use it again.
"That man you wrote me about. I've come down here to interview
him. Confound him! Who is he?"
"Oh, it's all right now," says I. "There was an old rooster from
New York who was acting too skittish to suit me, but I guess it's
all off. His being a millionaire and a stock-jobber was what scart
me fust along. He's a hundred years old or so; name of Van
"WHAT?" he says, pinching my arm till I could all but feel his
thumb and finger meet. "What? Stop joking. I'm not funny to-
"It's no joke," says I, trying to put my arm together again. "Van
Wedderburn is his name. 'Course you've heard of him. Why! there
he is now."
Sure enough, there was Van, standing like a statue of misery on the
front porch of the main hotel, the light from the winder shining
full on him. Jonesy stared and stared.
"Is that the man?" he says, choking up. "Was HE sweet on Mabel?"
"Sweeter'n a molasses stopper," says I. "But he's going away in a
day or so. You don't need to worry."
He commenced to laugh, and I thought he'd never stop.
"What's the joke?" I asks, after a year or so of this foolishness.
"Let me in, won't you? Thought you wa'n't funny to-night."
He stopped long enough to ask one more question. "Tell me, for the
Lord's sake!" says he. "Did she know who he was?"
"Sartin," says I. "So did every other woman round the place.
You'd think so if--"
He walked off then, laughing himself into a fit. "Good night, old
man," he says, between spasms. "See you later. No, I don't think
I shall worry much."
If he hadn't been so big I cal'lated I'd have risked a kick. A man
hates to be made a fool of and not know why.
A whole lot of the boarders had gone on the evening train, and at
our house Van Wedderburn was the only one left. He and Mabel and
me was the full crew at the breakfast-table the follering morning.
The fruit season was a quiet one. I done all the talking there
was; every time the broker and the housekeeper looked at each other
they turned red.
Finally 'twas "chopped-hay" time, and in comes the waiter with the
tray. And again we had a surprise, just like the one back in July.
Percy wa'n't on hand, and Jonesy was.
But the other surprise wa'n't nothing to this one. The Seabury
girl was mightily set back, but old Van was paralyzed. His eyes
and mouth opened and kept on opening.
"Cereal, sir?" asks Jones, polite as ever.
"Why! why, you--you rascal!" hollers Van Wedderburn. "What are you
"I have a few days' vacation from my position at Providence, sir,"
answers Jones. "I'm a waiter at present."
"Why, ROBERT!" exclaims Mabel Seabury.
Van swung around like he was on a pivot. "Do you know HIM?" he
pants, wild as a coot, and pointing.
'Twas the waiter himself that answered.
"She knows me, father," he says. "In fact she is the young lady I
told you about last spring; the one I intend to marry."
Did you ever see the tide go out over the flats? Well, that's the
way the red slid down off old Van's bald head and across his
cheeks. But it came back again like an earthquake wave. He turned
to Mabel once more, and if ever there was a pleading "Don't tell"
in a man's eyes, 'twas in his.
"Cereal, sir?" asks Robert Van Wedderburn, alias "Jonesy."
Well, I guess that's about all. Van Senior took it enough sight
more graceful than you'd expect, under the circumstances. He went
straight up to his room and never showed up till suppertime. Then
he marches to where Mabel and his son was, on the porch, and says
"Bob," he says, "if you don't marry this young lady within a month
I'll disown you, for good this time. You've got more sense than I
thought. Blessed if I see who you inherit it from!" says he, kind
of to himself.
Jonadab ain't paid me the quarter yet. He says the bet was that
she'd land a millionaire, and a Van Wedderburn, afore the season
ended, and she did; so he figgers that he won the bet. Him and me
got wedding cards a week ago, so I suppose "Jonesy" and Mabel are
on their honeymoon now. I wonder if she's ever told her husband
about what I heard in the bayberry bushes. Being the gamest sport,
for a woman, that ever I see, I'll gamble she ain't said a word
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