Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Donald Lainson. HTML version by Ronald Holder, Rick Niles
by Joseph C. Lincoln
Mr. Gabriel Bearse was happy. The prominence given to this
statement is not meant to imply that Gabriel was, as a general
rule, unhappy. Quite the contrary; Mr. Bearse's disposition was a
cheerful one and the cares of this world had not rounded his plump
shoulders. But Captain Sam Hunniwell had once said, and Orham
public opinion agreed with him, that Gabe Bearse was never happy
unless he was talking. Now here was Gabriel, not talking, but
walking briskly along the Orham main road, and yet so distinctly
happy that the happiness showed in his gait, his manner and in the
excited glitter of his watery eye. Truly an astonishing condition
of things and tending, one would say, to prove that Captain Sam's
didactic remark, so long locally accepted and quoted as gospel
truth, had a flaw in its wisdom somewhere.
And yet the flaw was but a small one and the explanation simple.
Gabriel was not talking at that moment, it is true, but he was
expecting to talk very soon, to talk a great deal. He had just
come into possession of an item of news which would furnish his
vocal machine gun with ammunition sufficient for wordy volley after
volley. Gabriel was joyfully contemplating peppering all Orham
with that bit of gossip. No wonder he was happy; no wonder he
hurried along the main road like a battery galloping eagerly into
He was on his way to the post office, always the gossip-
sharpshooters' first line trench, when, turning the corner where
Nickerson's Lane enters the main road, he saw something which
caused him to pause, alter his battle-mad walk to a slower one,
then to a saunter, and finally to a halt altogether. This
something was a toy windmill fastened to a white picket fence and
clattering cheerfully as its arms spun in the brisk, pleasant
The little windmill was one of a dozen, all fastened to the top
rail of that fence and all whirling. Behind the fence, on posts,
were other and larger windmills; behind these, others larger still.
Interspersed among the mills were little wooden sailors swinging
paddles; weather vanes in the shapes of wooden whales, swordfish,
ducks, crows, seagulls; circles of little wooden profile sailboats,
made to chase each other 'round and 'round a central post. All of
these were painted in gay colors, or in black and white, and all
were in motion. The mills spun, the boats sailed 'round and
'round, the sailors did vigorous Indian club exercises with their
paddles. The grass in the little yard and the tall hollyhocks in
the beds at its sides swayed and bowed and nodded. Beyond, seen
over the edge of the bluff and stretching to the horizon, the blue
and white waves leaped and danced and sparkled. As a picture of
movement and color and joyful bustle the scene was inspiring;
children, viewing it for the first time, almost invariably danced
and waved their arms in sympathy. Summer visitors, loitering idly
by, suddenly became fired with the desire to set about doing
something, something energetic.
Gabriel Bearse was not a summer visitor, but a "native," that is,
an all-the-year-round resident of Orham, and, as his fellow natives
would have cheerfully testified, it took much more than windmills
to arouse HIS energy. He had not halted to look at the mills. He
had stopped because the sight of them recalled to his mind the fact
that the maker of these mills was a friend of one of the men most
concerned in his brand new news item. It was possible, barely
possible, that here was an opportunity to learn just a little more,
to obtain an additional clip of cartridges before opening fire on
the crowd at the post office. Certainly it might be worth trying,
particularly as the afternoon mail would not be ready for another
hour, even if the train was on time.
At the rear of the little yard, and situated perhaps fifty feet
from the edge of the high sand bluff leading down precipitously to
the beach, was a shingled building, whitewashed, and with a door,
painted green, and four windows on the side toward the road. A
clamshell walk led from the gate to the doors. Over the door was a
sign, very neatly lettered, as follows: "J. EDGAR W. WINSLOW.
MILLS FOR SALE." In the lot next to that, where the little shop
stood, was a small, old-fashioned story-and-a-half Cape Cod house,
painted a speckless white, with vivid green blinds. The blinds
were shut now, for the house was unoccupied. House and shop and
both yards were neat and clean as a New England kitchen.
Gabriel Bearse, after a moment's reflection, opened the gate in the
picket fence and walked along the clamshell walk to the shop door.
Opening the door, he entered, a bell attached to the top of the
door jingling as he did so. The room which Mr. Bearse entered was
crowded from floor to ceiling, save for a narrow passage, with hit-
or-miss stacks of the wooden toys evidently finished and ready for
shipment. Threading his way between the heaps of sailors, mills,
vanes and boats, Gabriel came to a door evidently leading to
another room. There was a sign tacked to this door, which read,
"PRIVATE," but Mr. Bearse did not let that trouble him. He pushed
the door open.
The second room was evidently the work-shop. There were a circular
saw and a turning lathe, with the needful belts, and a small
electric motor to furnish power. Also there were piles of lumber,
shelves of paint pots and brushes, many shavings and much sawdust.
And, standing beside a dilapidated chair from which he had
evidently risen at the sound of the door bell, with a dripping
paint brush in one hand and a wooden sailor in the other, there was
a man. When he saw who his visitor was he sat down again.
He was a tall man and, as the chair he sat in was a low one and the
heels of his large shoes were hooked over its lower rounds, his
knees and shoulders were close together when he bent over his work.
He was a thin man and his trousers hung about his ankles like a
loose sail on a yard. His hair was thick and plentiful, a brown
sprinkled with gray at the temples. His face was smooth-shaven,
with wrinkles at the corners of the eyes and mouth. He wore
spectacles perched at the very end of his nose, and looked down
over rather than through them as he dipped the brush in the can of
paint beside him on the floor.
"Hello, Shavin's," hailed Mr. Bearse, blithely.
The tall man applied the brush to the nude pine legs of the wooden
sailor. One side of those legs were modestly covered forthwith by
a pair of sky-blue breeches. The artist regarded the breeches
dreamily. Then he said:
His voice was a drawl, very deliberate, very quiet, rather soft and
pleasant. But Mr. Bearse was not pleased.
"Don't call me that," he snapped.
The brush was again dipped in the paint pot and the rear elevation
of the pine sailor became sky-blue like the other side of him.
Then the tall man asked:
"Call you what?"
"Gab. That's a divil of a name to call anybody. Last time I was
in here Cap'n Sam Hunniwell heard you call me that and I cal'lated
he'd die laughin'. Seemed to cal'late there was somethin'
specially dum funny about it. I don't call it funny. Say,
speakin' of Cap'n Sam, have you heard the news about him?"
He asked the question eagerly, because it was a part of what he
came there to ask. His eagerness was not contagious. The man on
the chair put down the blue brush, took up a fresh one, dipped it
in another paint pot and proceeded to garb another section of his
sailor in a spotless white shirt. Mr. Bearse grew impatient.
"Have you heard the news about Cap'n Sam?" he repeated. "Say,
Shavin's, have you?"
The painting went serenely on, but the painter answered.
"Well, Gab," he drawled, "I--"
"Don't call me Gab, I tell you. 'Tain't my name."
"Sho! Ain't it?"
"You know well enough 'tain't. My name's Gabriel. Call me that--
or Gabe. I don't like to be called out of my name. But say,
"Well, Gab, say it."
"Look here, Jed Winslow, do you hear me?"
"Yes, hear you fust rate, Gabe--now."
Mr. Bearse's understanding was not easily penetrated; a hint
usually glanced from it like a piece of soap from a slanting cellar
door, but this time the speaker's tone and the emphasis on the
"now" made a slight dent. Gabriel's eyes opened.
"Huh?" he grunted in astonishment, as if the possibility had never
until that moment occured to him. "Why, say, Jed, don't you like
to be called 'Shavin's'?"
No answer. A blue collar was added to the white shirt of the
"Don't you, Jed?" repeated Gabe.
Mr. Winslow's gaze was lifted from his work and his eyes turned
momentarily in the direction of his caller.
"Gabe," he drawled, "did you ever hear about the feller that was
born stone deef and the Doxology?"
"Eh? What-- No, I never heard it."
The eyes turned back to the wooden sailor and Mr. Winslow chose
"Neither did he," he observed, and began to whistle what sounded
like a dirge.
Mr. Bearse stared at him for at least a minute. Then he shook his
"Well, by Judas!" he exclaimed. "I--I--I snum if I don't think you
BE crazy, same as some folks say you are! What in the nation has--
has your name got to do with a deef man and the Doxology?"
"Eh? . . . Oh, nothin'."
"Then what did you bust loose and tell me about 'em for? They
wan't any of MY business, was they?"
"No-o. That's why I spoke of 'em."
"What? You spoke of 'em 'cause they wan't any of my business?"
"Ye-es . . . I thought maybe--" He paused, turned the sailor over
in his hand, whistled a few more bars of the dirge and then
finished his sentence. "I thought maybe you might like to ask
questions about 'em," he concluded.
Mr. Bearse stared suspiciously at his companion, swallowed several
times and, between swallows, started to speak, but each time gave
it up. Mr. Winslow appeared quite oblivious of the stare. His
brushes gave the wooden sailor black hair, eyes and brows, and an
engaging crimson smile. When Gabriel did speak it was not
"Say, Jed," he cried, "HAVE you heard about Cap'n Sam Hunniwell?
'Bout his bein' put on the Exemption Board?"
His companion went on whistling, but he nodded.
"Um-hm," grunted Gabe, grudgingly. "I presumed likely you would
hear; he told you himself, I cal'late. Seth Baker said he see him
come in here night afore last and I suppose that's when he told
you. Didn't say nothin' else, did he?" he added, eagerly.
Again Mr. Winslow nodded.
"Did he? Did he? What else did he say?"
The tall man seemed to consider.
"Well," he drawled, at length, "seems to me I remember him sayin'--
"Yes? Yes? What did he say?"
"Well--er--seems to me he said good night just afore he went home."
The disappointed Gabriel lost patience. "Oh, you DIVILISH fool
head!" he exclaimed, disgustedly. "Look here, Jed Winslow, talk
sense for a minute, if you can, won't you? I've just heard
somethin' that's goin' to make a big row in this town and it's got
to do with Cap'n Sam's bein' app'inted on that Gov'ment Exemption
Board for drafted folks. If you'd heard Phineas Babbitt goin' on
the way I done, I guess likely you'd have been interested."
It was plain that, for the first time since his caller intruded
upon his privacy, the maker of mills and sailors WAS interested.
He did not put down his brush, but he turned his head to look and
listen. Bearse, pleased with this symptom of attention, went on.
"I was just into Phineas' store," he said, "and he was there, so I
had a chance to talk with him. He's been up to Boston and never
got back till this afternoon, so I cal'lated maybe he hadn't heard
about Cap'n Sam's app'intment. And I knew, too, how he does hate
the Cap'n; ain't had nothin' but cuss words and such names for him
ever since Sam done him out of gettin' the postmaster's job.
Pretty mean trick, some folks call it, but--"
Mr. Winslow interrupted; his drawl was a trifle less evident.
"Congressman Taylor asked Sam for the truth regardin' Phineas and a
certain matter," he said. "Sam told the truth, that's all."
"Well, maybe that's so, but does tellin' the truth about folks make
'em love you? I don't know as it does."
Winslow appeared to meditate.
"No-o," he observed, thoughtfully, "I don't suppose you do."
"No, I . . . Eh? What do you mean by that? Look here, Jed
Jed held up a big hand. "There, there, Gabe," he suggested,
mildly. "Let's hear about Sam and Phin Babbitt. What was Phineas
goin' on about when you was in his store?"
Mr. Bearse forgot personal grievance in his eagerness to tell the
"Why," he began, "you see, 'twas like this: 'Twas all on account of
Leander. Leander's been drafted. You know that, of course?"
Jed nodded. Leander Babbitt was the son of Phineas Babbitt,
Orham's dealer in hardware and lumber and a leading political boss.
Between Babbitt, Senior, and Captain Sam Hunniwell, the latter
President of the Orham National Bank and also a vigorous
politician, the dislike had always been strong. Since the affair
of the postmastership it had become, on Babbitt's part, an intense
hatred. During the week just past young Babbitt's name had been
drawn as one of Orham's quota for the new National Army. The
village was still talking of the draft when the news came that
Captain Hunniwell had been selected as a member of the Exemption
Board for the district, the Board which was to hold its sessions at
Ostable and listen to the pleas of those desiring to be excused
from service. Not all of Orham knew this as yet. Jed Winslow had
heard it, from Captain Sam himself. Gabe Bearse had heard it
because he made it his business to hear everything, whether it
concerned him or not--preferably not.
The war had come to Orham with the unbelievable unreality with
which it had come to the great mass of the country. Ever since the
news of the descent of von Kluck's hordes upon devoted Belgium, in
the fall of 1914, the death grapple in Europe had, of course, been
the principal topic of discussion at the post office and around the
whist tables at the Setuckit Club, where ancient and retired
mariners met and pounded their own and each other's knees while
they expressed sulphurous opinions concerning the attitude of the
President and Congress. These opinions were, as a usual thing,
guided by the fact of their holders' allegiance to one or the other
of the great political parties. Captain Sam Hunniwell, a lifelong
and ardent Republican, with a temper as peppery as the chile con
carne upon which, when commander of a steam freighter trading with
Mexico, he had feasted so often--Captain Sam would have hoisted the
Stars and Stripes to the masthead the day the Lusitania sank and
put to sea in a dory, if need be, and armed only with a shotgun, to
avenge that outrage. To hear Captain Sam orate concerning the
neglect of duty of which he considered the United States government
guilty was an experience, interesting or shocking, according to the
drift of one's political or religious creed.
Phineas Babbitt, on the contrary, had at first upheld the policy of
strict neutrality. "What business is it of ours if them furriners
take to slaughterin' themselves?" he wanted to know. He hotly
declared the Lusitania victims plaguey fools who knew what they
were riskin' when they sailed and had got just what was comin' to
'em--that is, he was proclaiming it when Captain Sam heard him;
after that the captain issued a proclamation of his own and was
proceeding to follow words with deeds. The affair ended by mutual
acquaintances leading Captain Sam from the Babbitt Hardware
Company's store, the captain rumbling like a volcano and, to follow
up the simile, still emitting verbal brimstone and molten lava,
while Mr. Babbitt, entrenched behind his counter, with a monkey
wrench in his hand, dared his adversary to lay hands on a law-
When the Kaiser and von Tirpitz issued their final ultimatum,
however, and the President called America to arms, Phineas, in
company with others of his breed, appeared to have experienced a
change of heart. At all events he kept his anti-war opinions to
himself and, except that his hatred for the captain was more
virulent than ever since the affair of the postmastership, he found
little fault with the war preparations in the village, the
organizing of a Home Guard, the raising of funds for a new flag and
flagpole and the recruiting meeting in the town hall.
At that meeting a half dozen of Orham's best young fellows had
expressed their desire to fight for Uncle Sam. The Orham band--
minus its first cornet, who was himself one of the volunteers--had
serenaded them at the railway station and the Congregational
minister and Lawyer Poundberry of the Board of Selectmen had made
speeches. Captain Sam Hunniwell, being called upon to say a few
words, had said a few--perhaps, considering the feelings of the
minister and the feminine members of his flock present, it is well
they were not more numerous.
"Good luck to you, boys," said Captain Sam. "I wish to the
Almighty I was young enough to go with you. And say, if you see
that Kaiser anywheres afloat or ashore give him particular merry
hell for me, will you?"
And then, a little later, came the news that the conscription bill
had become a law and that the draft was to be a reality. And with
that news the war itself became a little more real. And, suddenly,
Phineas Babbitt, realizing that his son, Leander, was twenty-five
years old and, therefore, within the limits of the draft age,
became once more an ardent, if a little more careful, conscientious
He discovered that the war was a profiteering enterprise engineered
by capital and greed for the exploiting of labor and the common
people. Whenever he thought it safe to do so he aired these
opinions and, as there were a few of what Captain Hunniwell called
"yellow-backed swabs" in Orham or its neighborhood, he occasionally
had sympathetic listeners. Phineas, it is only fair to say, had
never heretofore shown any marked interest in labor except to get
as much of it for as little money as possible. If his son,
Leander, shared his father's opinions, he did not express them. In
fact he said very little, working steadily in the store all day and
appearing to have something on his mind. Most people liked
Then came the draft and Leander was drafted. He said very little
about it, but his father said a great deal. The boy should not go;
the affair was an outrage. Leander wasn't strong, anyway; besides,
wasn't he his father's principal support? He couldn't be spared,
that's all there was about it, and he shouldn't be. There was
going to be an Exemption Board, wasn't there? All right--just wait
until he, Phineas, went before that board. He hadn't been in
politics all these years for nothin'. Sam Hunniwell hadn't got all
the pull there was in the county.
And then Captain Sam was appointed a member of that very board. He
had dropped in at the windmill shop the very evening when he
decided to accept and told Jed Winslow all about it. There never
were two people more unlike than Sam Hunniwell and Jed Winslow, but
they had been fast friends since boyhood. Jed knew that Phineas
Babbitt had been on a trip to Boston and, therefore, had not heard
of the captain's appointment. Now, according to Gabriel Bearse, he
had returned and had heard of it, and according to Bearse's excited
statement he had "gone on" about it.
"Leander's been drafted," repeated Gabe. "And that was bad enough
for Phineas, he bein' down on the war, anyhow. But he's been
cal'latin', I cal'late, to use his political pull to get Leander
exempted off. Nine boards out of ten, if they'd had a man from
Orham on 'em, would have gone by what that man said in a case like
Leander's. And Phineas, he was movin' heavens and earth to get one
of his friends put on as the right Orham man. And now--NOW, by
godfreys domino, they've put on the ONE man that Phin can't
influence, that hates Phin worse than a cat hates a swim. Oh, you
ought to heard Phineas go on when I told him. He'd just got off
the train, as you might say, so nobody'd had a chance to tell him.
I was the fust one, you see. So--"
"Was Leander there?"
"No, he wan't. There wan't nobody in the store but Susie Ellis,
that keeps the books there now, and Abner Burgess's boy, that runs
errands and waits on folks when everybody else is busy. That was a
funny thing, too--that about Leander's not bein' there. Susie said
she hadn't seen him since just after breakfast time, half past
seven o'clock or so, and when she telephoned the Babbitt house it
turned out he hadn't been there, neither. Had his breakfast and
went out, he did, and that's all his step-ma knew about him. But
Phineas, he. . . . Eh? Ain't that the bell? Customer, I presume
likely. Want me to go see who 'tis, Shavin's--Jed, I mean?"
But the person who had entered the outer shop saved Mr. Bearse the
trouble. He, too, disregarded the "Private" sign on the door of
the inner room. Before Gabriel could reach it that door was thrown
open and the newcomer entered. He was a big man, gray-mustached,
with hair a grizzled red, and with blue eyes set in a florid face.
The hand which had opened the door looked big and powerful enough
to have knocked a hole in it, if such a procedure had been
necessary. And its owner looked quite capable of doing it, if he
deemed it necessary, in fact he looked as if he would rather have
enjoyed it. He swept into the room like a northwest breeze, and
two bundles of wooden strips, cut to the size of mill arms,
clattered to the floor as he did so.
"Hello, Jed!" he hailed, in a voice which measured up to the rest
of him. Then, noticing Mr. Bearse for the first time, he added:
"Hello, Gabe, what are you doin' here?"
Gabriel hastened to explain. His habitual desire to please and
humor each person he met--each person of consequence, that is; very
poor people or village eccentrics like Jed Winslow did not much
matter, of course--was in this case augmented by a particular
desire to please Captain Sam Hunniwell. Captain Sam, being one of
Orham's most influential men, was not, in Mr. Bearse's estimation,
at all the sort of person whom it was advisable to displease. He
might--and did--talk disparagingly of him behind his back, as he
did behind the back of every one else, but he smiled humbly and
spoke softly in his presence. The consciousness of having just
been talking of him, however, of having visited that shop for the
express purpose of talking about him, made the explaining process a
"Oh, howd'ye do, howd'ye do, Cap'n Hunniwell?" stammered Gabriel.
"Nice day, ain't it, sir? Yes, sir, 'tis a nice day. I was just--
er--that is, I just run in to see Shavin's here; to make a little
call, you know. We was just settin' here talkin', wan't we,
Shavin's--Jed, I mean?"
Mr. Winslow stood his completed sailor man in a rack to dry.
"Ya-as," he drawled, solemnly, "that was about it, I guess. Have a
chair, Sam, won't you? . . . That was about it, we was sittin' and
talkin' . . . I was sittin' and Gab--Gabe, I mean--was talkin'."
Captain Sam chuckled. As Winslow and Mr. Bearse were occupying the
only two chairs in the room he accepted the invitation in its broad
sense and, turning an empty box upon end, sat down on that.
"So Gabe was talkin', eh?" he repeated. "Well, that's singular.
How'd that happen, Gabe?"
Mr. Bearse looked rather foolish. "Oh, we was just--just talkin'
about--er--this and that," he said, hastily. "Just this and that,
nothin' partic'lar. Cal'late I'll have to be runnin' along now,
Jed Winslow selected a new and unpainted sailor from the pile near
him. He eyed it dreamily.
"Well, Gabe," he observed, "if you must, you must, I suppose.
Seems to me you're leavin' at the most interestin' time. We've
been talkin' about this and that, same as you say, and now you're
leavin' just as 'this' has got here. Maybe if you wait--wait--a--"
The sentence died away into nothingness. He had taken up the brush
which he used for the blue paint. There was a loose bristle in it.
He pulled this out and one or two more came with it.
"Hu-um!" he mused, absently.
Captain Sam was tired of waiting.
"Come, finish her out, Jed--finish her out," he urged. "What's the
rest of it?"
"I cal'late I'll run along now," said Mr. Bearse, nervously moving
toward the door.
"Hold on a minute," commanded the captain. "Jed hadn't finished
what he was sayin' to you. He generally talks like one of those
continued-in-our-next yarns in the magazines. Give us the
September installment, Jed--come."
Mr. Winslow smiled, a slow, whimsical smile that lit up his lean,
brown face and then passed away as slowly as it had come, lingering
for an instant at one corner of his mouth.
"Oh, I was just tellin' Gabe that the 'this' he was talkin' about
was here now," he said, "and that maybe if he waited a space the
'that' would come, too. Seems to me if I was you, Gabe, I'd--"
But Mr. Bearse had gone.
Captain Hunniwell snorted. "Humph!" he said; "I judge likely I'm
the 'this' you and that gas bag have been talkin' about. Who's the
His companion was gazing absently at the door through which Gabriel
had made his hurried departure. After gazing at it in silence for
a moment, he rose from the chair, unfolding section by section like
a pocket rule, and, crossing the room, opened the door and took
from its other side the lettered sign "Private" which had hung
there. Then, with tacks and a hammer, he proceeded to affix the
placard to the inner side of the door, that facing the room where
he and Captain Sam were. The captain regarded this operation with
"Gracious king!" he exclaimed. "What in thunder are you doin' that
for? This is the private room in here, ain't it?"
Mr. Winslow, returning to his chair, nodded.
"Ya-as," he admitted, "that's why I'm puttin' the 'Private' sign on
this side of the door."
"Yes, but-- Why, confound it, anybody who sees it there will think
it is the other room that's private, won't they?"
Jed nodded. "I'm in hopes they will," he said.
"You're in hopes they will! Why?"
"'Cause if Gabe Bearse thinks that room's private and that he don't
belong there he'll be sartin sure to go there; then maybe he'll
give me a rest."
He selected a new brush and went on with his painting. Captain
Hunniwell laughed heartily. Then, all at once, his laughter ceased
and his face assumed a troubled expression.
"Jed," he ordered, "leave off daubin' at that wooden doll baby for
a minute, will you? I want to talk to you. I want to ask you what
you think I'd better do. I know what Gab Bearse-- Much obliged
for that name, Jed; 'Gab's' the best name on earth for that
critter--I know what Gab came in here to talk about. 'Twas about
me and my bein' put on the Exemption Board, of course. That was
it, wan't it? Um-hm, I knew 'twas. I was the 'this' in his 'this
and that.' And Phin Babbitt was the 'that'; I'll bet on it. Am I
"Sure thing!" continued the captain. "Well, there 'tis. What am I
goin' to do? When they wanted me to take the job in the first
place I kind of hesitated. You know I did. 'Twas bound to be one
of those thankless sort of jobs that get a feller into trouble,
bound to be. And yet--and yet--well, SOMEBODY has to take those
kind of jobs. And a man hadn't ought to talk all the time about
how he wishes he could do somethin' to help his country, and then
lay down and quit on the first chance that comes his way, just
'cause that chance ain't--ain't eatin' up all the pie in the state
so the Germans can't get it, or somethin' like that. Ain't that
"Seems so to me, Sam."
"Yes. Well, so I said I'd take my Exemption Board job. But when I
said I'd accept it, it didn't run across my mind that Leander
Babbitt was liable to be drafted, first crack out of the box. Now
he IS drafted, and, if I know Phin Babbitt, the old man will be
down on us Board fellers the first thing to get the boy exempted.
AND, I bein' on the Board and hailin' from his own town, Orham
here, it would naturally be to me that he'd come first. Eh?
That's what he'd naturally do, ain't it?"
His friend nodded once more. Captain Sam lost patience.
"Gracious king!" he exclaimed. "Jed Winslow, for thunder sakes say
somethin'! Don't set there bobbin' your head up and down like one
of those wound-up images in a Christmas-time store window. I ask
you if that ain't what Phin Babbitt would do? What would you do if
you was in his shoes?"
Jed rubbed his chin.
"Step out of 'em, I guess likely," he drawled.
"Humph! Yes--well, any self-respectin' person would do that, even
if he had to go barefooted the rest of his life. But, what I'm
gettin' at is this: Babbitt'll come to me orderin' me to get
Leander exempted. And what'll I say?"
Winslow turned and looked at him.
"Seems to me, Sam," he answered, "that if that thing happened
there'd be only one thing to say. You'd just have to tell him that
you'd listen to his reasons and if they seemed good enough to let
the boy off, for your part you'd vote to let him off. If they
didn't seem good enough--why--"
"Why, then Leander'd have to go to war and his dad could go to--"
"Eh? Go on. I want to hear you say it. Where could he go?"
Jed wiped the surplus paint from his brush on the edge of the can.
"To sellin' hardware," he concluded, gravely, but with a twinkle in
Captain Sam sniffed, perhaps in disappointment. "His hardware'd
melt where I'D tell him to go," he declared. "What you say is all
right, Ed. It's an easy doctrine to preach, but, like lots of
other preacher's doctrines, it's hard to live up to. Phin loves me
like a step-brother and I love him the same way. Well, now here he
comes to ask me to do a favor for him. If I don't do it, he'll
say, and the whole town'll say, that I'm ventin' my spite on him,
keepin' on with my grudge, bein' nasty, cussed, everything that's
mean. If I do do it, if I let Leander off, all hands'll say that I
did it because I was afraid of Phineas and the rest would say the
other thing. It puts me in a devil of a position. It's all right
to say, 'Do your duty,' 'Stand up in your shoes,' 'Do what you
think's right, never mind whose boy 'tis,' and all that, but I
wouldn't have that old skunk goin' around sayin' I took advantage
of my position to rob him of his son for anything on earth. I
despise him too much to give him that much satisfaction. And yet
there I am, and the case'll come up afore me. What'll I do, Jed?
Shall I resign? Help me out. I'm about crazy. Shall I heave up
the job? Shall I quit?"
Jed put down the brush and the sailor man. He rubbed his chin.
"No-o," he drawled, after a moment.
"Oh, I shan't, eh? Why not?"
"'Cause you don't know how, Sam. It always seemed to me that it
took a lot of practice to be a quitter. You never practiced."
"Thanks. All right, then, I'm to hang on, I suppose, and take my
medicine. If that's all the advice you've got to give me, I might
as well have stayed at home. But I tell you this, Jed Winslow: If
I'd realized--if I'd thought about the Leander Babbitt case comin'
up afore me on that Board I never would have accepted the
appointment. When you and I were talkin' here the other night it's
queer that neither of us thought of it. . . . Eh? What are you
lookin at me like that for? You don't mean to tell me that YOU DID
think of it? Did you?"
"Yes," he said. "I thought of it."
"You DID! Well, I swear! Then why in thunder didn't you--"
He was interrupted. The bell attached to the door of the outer
shop rang. The maker of windmills rose jerkily to his feet.
Captain Sam made a gesture of impatience.
"Get rid of your customer and come back here soon as you can," he
ordered. Having commanded a steamer before he left the sea and
become a banker, the captain usually ordered rather than requested.
"Hurry all you can. I ain't half through talkin' with you. For
the land sakes, MOVE! Of all the deliberate, slow travelin'--"
He did not finish his sentence, nor did Winslow, who had started
toward the door, have time to reach it. The door was opened and a
short, thickset man, with a leathery face and a bristling yellow-
white chin beard, burst into the room. At the sight of its
occupants he uttered a grunt of satisfaction and his bushy brows
were drawn together above his little eyes, the latter a washed-out
gray and set very close together.
"Humph!" he snarled, vindictively. "So you BE here. Gabe Bearse
said you was, but I thought probably he was lyin', as usual. Did
he lie about the other thing, that's what I've come here to find
out? Sam Hunniwell, have you been put on that Draft Exemption
"Yes," he said, curtly, "I have."
The man trembled all over.
"You have?" he cried, raising his voice almost to a scream.
"Yes, I have. What's it matter to you, Phin Babbitt? Seems to
have het you up some, that or somethin' else."
"Het me up! By--" Mr. Phineas Babbitt swore steadily for a full
minute. When he stopped for breath Jed Winslow, who had stepped
over and was looking out of the window, uttered an observation.
"I'm afraid I made a mistake, changin' that sign," he said,
musingly. "I cal'late I'll make another: 'Prayer meetin's must be
"By--," began Mr. Babbitt again, but this time it was Captain Sam
who interrupted. The captain occasionally swore at other people,
but he was not accustomed to be sworn at. He, too, began to "heat
up." He rose to his feet.
"That'll do, Babbitt," he commanded. "What's the matter with you?
Is it me you're cussin'? Because if it is--"
The little Babbitt eyes snapped defiance.
"If it is, what?" he demanded. But before the captain could reply
Winslow, turning away from the window, did so for him.
"If it is, I should say 'twas a pretty complete job," he drawled.
"I don't know when I've heard fewer things left out. You have
reason to be proud, both of you. And now, Phineas," he went on,
"what's it all about? What's the matter?"
Mr. Babbitt waved his fists again, preparatory to another outburst.
Jed laid a big hand on his shoulder.
"Don't seem to me time for the benediction yet, Phineas," he said.
"Ought to preach your sermon or sing a hymn first, seems so. What
did you come here for?"
Phineas Babbitt's hard gray eyes looked up into the big brown ones
gazing mildly down upon him. His gaze shifted and his tone when he
next spoke was a trifle less savage.
"He knows well enough what I came here for," he growled, indicating
Hunniwell with a jerk of his thumb. "He knows that just as well as
he knows why he had himself put on that Exemption Board."
"I didn't have myself put there," declared the captain. "The job
was wished on me. Lord knows I didn't want it. I was just tellin'
Jed here that very thing."
"Wished on you nothin'! You planned to get it and you worked to
get it and I know why you did it, too. 'Twas to get another crack
at me. 'Twas to play another dirty trick on me like the one you
played that cheated me out of the post office. You knew they'd
drafted my boy and you wanted to make sure he didn't get clear.
"That'll do!" Captain Hunniwell seized him by the shoulder.
"That's enough," cried the captain. "Your boy had nothin' to do
with it. I never thought of his name bein' drawn when I said I'd
accept the job."
"WHAT? Why, you little sawed-off, dried-up, sassy son of a sea
Winslow's lanky form was interposed between the pair; and his slow,
gentle drawl made itself heard.
"I'm sorry to interrupt the experience meetin'," he said, "but I'VE
got a call to testify and I feel the spirit aworkin'. Set down
again, Sam, will you please. Phineas, you set down over there.
Please set down, both of you. Sam, as a favor to me--"
But the captain was not in a favor-extending mood. He glowered at
his adversary and remained standing.
"Phin--" begged Winslow. But Mr. Babbitt, although a trifle paler
than when he entered the shop, was not more yielding.
"I'm particular who I set down along of," he declared. "I'd as
soon set down with a--a rattlesnake as I would with some humans."
Captain Sam was not pale, far from it.
"Skunks are always afraid of snakes, they tell me," he observed,
tartly. "A rattlesnake's honest, anyhow, and he ain't afraid to
bite. He ain't all bad smell and nothin' else."
Babbitt's bristling chin beard quivered with inarticulate hatred.
Winslow sighed resignedly.
"Well," he asked, "you don't mind the other--er--critter in the
menagerie sittin', do you? Now--now--now, just a minute," he
pleaded, as his two companions showed symptoms of speaking
simultaneously. "Just a minute; let me say a word. Phineas, I
judge the only reason you have for objectin' to the captain's bein'
on the Exemption Board is on account of your son, ain't it? It's
just on Leander's account?"
But before the furious Mr. Babbitt could answer there came another
interruption. The bell attached to the door of the outer shop rang
once more. Jed, who had accepted his own invitation to sit, rose
again with a groan.
"Now I wonder who THAT is?" he drawled, in mild surprise.
Captain Hunniwell's frayed patience, never noted for long
endurance, snapped again. "Gracious king! go and find out," he
roared. "Whoever 'tis 'll die of old age before you get there."
The slow smile drifted over Mr. Winslow's face. "Probably if I
wait and give 'em a chance they'll come in here and have apoplexy
instead," he said. "That seems to be the fashionable disease this
afternoon. They won't stay out there and be lonesome; they'll come
in here where it's private and there's a crowd. Eh? Yes, here
But the newest visitor did not come, like the others, uninvited
into the "private" room. Instead he knocked on its door. When
Winslow opened it he saw a small boy with a yellow envelope in his
"Hello, Josiah," hailed Jed, genially. "How's the president of the
Western Union these days?"
The boy grinned bashfully and opined the magnate just mentioned was
"all right." Then he added:
"Is Mr. Babbitt here? Mr. Bearse--Mr. Gabe Bearse--is over at the
office and he said he saw Mr. Babbitt come in here."
"Yes, he's here. Want to see him, do you?"
"I've got a telegram for him."
Mr. Babbitt himself came forward and took the yellow envelope.
After absently turning it over several times, as so many people do
when they receive an unexpected letter or message, he tore it open.
Winslow and Captain Sam, watching him, saw his face, to which the
color had returned in the last few minutes, grow white again. He
staggered a little. Jed stepped toward him.
"What is it, Phin?" he asked. "Somebody dead or--"
Babbitt waved him away. "No," he gasped, chokingly. "No, let me
be. I'm--I'm all right."
Captain Sam, a little conscience-stricken, came forward. "Are you
sick, Phin?" he asked. "Is there anything I can do?"
Phineas glowered at him. "Yes," he snarled between his clenched
teeth, "you can mind your own darned business."
Then, turning to the boy who had brought the message, he ordered:
"You get out of here."
The frightened youngster scuttled away and Babbitt, the telegram
rattling in his shaking hand, followed him. The captain, hurrying
to the window, saw him go down the walk and along the road in the
direction of his store. He walked like a man stricken.
Captain Sam turned back again. "Now what in time was in that
telegram?" he demanded. Jed, standing with his back toward him and
looking out of the window on the side of the shop toward the sea,
did not answer.
"Do you hear me?" asked the captain. "That telegram struck him
like a shock of paralysis. He went all to pieces. What on earth
do you suppose was in it? Eh? Why don't you say somethin'? YOU
don't know what was in it, do you?"
Winslow shook his head. "No," he answered. "I don't know's I do."
"You don't know as you do? Well, do you GUESS you do? Jed
Winslow, what have you got up your sleeve?"
The proprietor of the windmill shop slowly turned and faced him.
"I don't know's there's anything there, Sam," he answered, "but--
but I shouldn't be much surprised if that telegram was from
"Leander? Leander Babbitt? What . . . Eh? What in thunder do
The last question was directed toward the window on the street side
of the shop. Mr. Gabriel Bearse was standing on the outside of
that window, energetically thumping on the glass.
"Open her up! Open her up!" commanded Gabe. "I've got somethin'
to tell you."
Captain Sam opened the window. Gabriel's face was aglow with
excitement. "Say! Say!" he cried. "Did he tell you? Did he tell
"Did who tell what?" demanded the captain.
"Did Phin Babbitt tell you what was in that telegram he just got?
What did he say when he read it? Did he swear? I bet he did! If
that telegram wan't some surprise to old Babbitt, then--"
"Do you know what 'twas--what the telegram was?"
"Do I? You bet you I do! And I'm the only one in this town except
Phin and Jim Bailey that does know. I was in the telegraph office
when Jim took it over the wire. I see Jim was pretty excited.
'Well,' says he, 'if this won't be some jolt to old Phin!' he says.
'What will?' says I. 'Why,' says he--"
"What was it?" demanded Captain Sam. "You're dyin' to tell us, a
blind man could see that. Get it off your chest and save your
life. What was it?"
Mr. Bearse leaned forward and whispered. There was no real reason
why he should whisper, but doing so added a mysterious,
confidential tang, so to speak, to the value of his news.
"'Twas from Leander--from Phin's own boy, Leander Babbitt, 'twas.
'Twas from him, up in Boston and it went somethin' like this: 'Have
enlisted in the infantry. Made up my mind best thing to do. Will
not be back. Have written particulars.' That was it, or pretty
nigh it. Leander's enlisted. Never waited for no Exemption Board
nor nothin', but went up and enlisted on his own hook without
tellin' a soul he was goin' to. That's the way Bailey and me
figger it up. Say, ain't that some news? Godfreys, I must hustle
back to the post office and tell the gang afore anybody else gets
ahead of me. So long!"
He hurried away on his joyful errand. Captain Hunniwell closed the
window and turned to face his friend.
"Do you suppose that's true, Jed?" he asked. "Do you suppose it
CAN be true?"
Jed nodded. "Shouldn't be surprised," he said.
"Good gracious king! Do you mean the boy went off up to Boston on
his own hook, as that what's-his-name--Gab--says, and volunteered
and got himself enlisted into the army?"
"Shouldn't wonder, Sam."
"Well, my gracious king! Why--why--no wonder old Babbitt looked as
if the main topsail yard had fell on him. Tut, tut, tut! Well, I
declare! Now what do you suppose put him up to doin' that?"
Winslow sat down in his low chair again and picked up the wooden
sailor and the paint brush.
"Well, Sam," he said, slowly, "Leander's a pretty good boy."
"Yes, I suppose he is, but he's Phin Babbitt's son."
"I know, but don't it seem to you as if some sorts of fathers was
like birthmarks and bow legs; they come early in life and a feller
ain't to blame for havin' 'em? Sam, you ain't sorry the boy's
volunteered, are you?"
"Sorry! I should say not! For one thing his doin' it makes my job
on the Exemption Board a mighty sight easier. There won't be any
row there with Phineas now."
"No-o, I thought 'twould help that. But that wan't the whole
"Reason for what? What do you mean?"
"I mean that wan't my whole reason for tellin' Leander he'd better
volunteer, better go up to Boston and enlist, same as he did. That
was part, but 'twan't all."
Captain Sam's eyes and mouth opened. He stared at the speaker in
"You told him to volunteer?" he repeated. "You told him to go to
Boston and-- YOU did? What on earth?"
Jed's brush moved slowly down the wooden legs of his sailor man.
"Leander and I are pretty good friends," he explained. "I like him
and he--er--hum--I'm afraid that paint's kind of thick. Cal'late
I'll have to thin it a little."
Captain Sam condemned the paint to an eternal blister.
"Go on! go on!" he commanded. "What about you and Leander? Finish
her out. Can't you see you've got my head whirlin' like one of
those windmills of yours? Finish her OUT!"
Jed looked over his spectacles.
"Oh!" he said. "Well, Leander's been comin' in here pretty
frequent and we've talked about his affairs a good deal. He's
always wanted to enlist ever since the war broke out."
"Why, sartin. Just the same as you would, or--or I hope I would,
if I was young and--and," with a wistful smile, "different, and
likely to be any good to Uncle Sam. Yes, Leander's been anxious to
go to war, but his dad was so set against it all and kept hollerin'
so about the boy's bein' needed in the store, that Leander didn't
hardly know what to do. But then when he was drawn on the draft
list he came in here and he and I had a long talk. 'Twas
yesterday, after you'd told me about bein' put on the Board, you
know. I could see the trouble there'd be between you and Phineas
and--and--well, you see, Sam, I just kind of wanted that boy to
volunteer. I--I don't know why, but--" He looked up from his work
and stared dreamily out of the window. "I guess maybe 'twas
because I've been wishin' so that I could go myself--or--do
SOMETHIN' that was some good. So Leander and I talked and finally
he said, 'Well, by George, I WILL go.' And--and--well, I guess
that's all; he went, you see."
The captain drew a long breath.
"He went," he repeated. "And you knew he'd gone?"
"No, I didn't know, but I kind of guessed."
"You guessed, and yet all the time I've been here you haven't said
a word about it till this minute."
"Well, I didn't think 'twas much use sayin' until I knew."
"Well, my gracious king, Jed Winslow, you beat all my goin' to sea!
But you've helped Uncle Sam to a good soldier and you've helped me
out of a nasty row. For my part I'm everlastin' obliged to you, I
Jed looked pleased but very much embarrassed.
"Sho, sho," he exclaimed, hastily, "'twan't anything. Oh, say,"
hastily changing the subject, "I've got some money 'round here
somewheres I thought maybe you'd take to the bank and deposit for
me next time you went, if 'twan't too much trouble."
"Trouble? Course 'tain't any trouble. Where is it?"
Winslow put down his work and began to hunt. From one drawer of
his work bench, amid nails, tools and huddles of papers, he
produced a small bundle of banknotes; from another drawer another
bundle. These, however, did not seem to satisfy him entirely. At
last, after a good deal of very deliberate search, he unearthed
more paper currency from the pocket of a dirty pair of overalls
hanging on a nail, and emptied a heap of silver and coppers from a
battered can on the shelf. Captain Hunniwell, muttering to
himself, watched the collecting process. When it was completed, he
"Is this all?"
"Eh? Yes, I guess 'tis. I can't seem to find any more just now.
Maybe another batch'll turn up later. If it does I'll keep it till
The captain, suppressing his emotions, hastily counted the money.
"Have you any idea how much there is here?" he asked.
"No, I don't know's I have. There's been quite consider'ble comin'
in last fortni't or so. Summer folks been payin' bills and one
thing or 'nother. Might be forty or fifty dollars, I presume
"Forty or fifty! Nearer a hundred and fifty! And you keep it
stuffed around in every junk hole from the roof to the cellar.
Wonder to me you don't light your pipe with it. I shouldn't wonder
if you did. How many times have I told you to deposit your money
every three days anyhow? How many times?"
Mr. Winslow seemed to reflect.
"Don't know, Sam," he admitted. "Good many, I will give in. But--
but, you see, Sam, if--if I take it to the bank I'm liable to
forget I've got it. Long's it's round here somewheres I--why, I
know where 'tis and--and it's handy. See, don't you?"
The captain shook his head.
"Jed Winslow," he declared, "as I said to you just now you beat all
my goin' to sea. I can't make you out. When I see how you act
with money and business, and how you let folks take advantage of
you, then I think you're a plain dum fool. And yet when you bob up
and do somethin' like gettin' Leander Babbitt to volunteer and
gettin' me out of that row with his father, then--well, then, I'm
ready to swear you're as wise as King Solomon ever was. You're a
puzzle to me, Jed. What are you, anyway--the dum fool or King
Jed looked meditatively over his spectacles. The slow smile
twitched the corners of his lips.
"Well, Sam," he drawled, "if you put it to vote at town meetin' I
cal'late the majority'd be all one way. But, I don't know"--; he
paused, and then added, "I don't know, Sam, but it's just as well
as 'tis. A King Solomon down here in Orham would be an awful
Upon a late September day forty-nine years and some months before
that upon which Gabe Bearse came to Jed Winslow's windmill shop in
Orham with the news of Leander Babbitt's enlistment, Miss Floretta
Thompson came to that village to teach the "downstairs" school.
Miss Thompson was an orphan. Her father had kept a small drug
store in a town in western Massachusetts. Her mother had been a
clergyman's daughter. Both had died when she was in her 'teens.
Now, at twenty, she came to Cape Cod, pale, slim, with a wealth of
light brown hair and a pair of large, dreamy brown eyes. Her taste
in dress was peculiar, even eccentric, and Orham soon discovered
that she, herself, was also somewhat eccentric.
As a schoolteacher she was not an unqualified success. The
"downstairs" curriculum was not extensive nor very exacting, but it
was supposed to impart to the boys and girls of from seven to
twelve a rudimentary knowledge of the three R's and of geography.
In the first two R's, "readin' and 'ritin'," Miss Thompson was
proficient. She wrote a flowery Spencerian, which was beautifully
"shaded" and looked well on the blackboard, and reading was the
dissipation of her spare moments. The third "R," 'rithmetic, she
Youth, even at the ages of from seven to twelve, is only too
proficient in learning to evade hard work. The fact that Teacher
took no delight in traveling the prosaic highways of addition,
multiplication and division, but could be easily lured to wander
the flowery lanes of romantic fiction, was soon grasped by the
downstairs pupils. The hour set for recitation by the first class
in arithmetic was often and often monopolized by a hold-over of the
first class in reading, while Miss Floretta, artfully spurred by
questions asked by the older scholars, rhapsodized on the beauties
of James Fenimore Cooper's "Uncas," or Dickens' "Little Nell," or
Scott's "Ellen." Some of us antiques, then tow-headed little
shavers in the front seats, can still remember Miss Floretta's
rendition of the lines:
"And Saxon--I am Roderick Dhu!"
The extremely genteel, not to say ladylike, elocution of the
Highland chief and the indescribable rising inflection and emphasis
on the "I."
These literary rambles had their inevitable effect, an effect
noted, after a time, and called to the attention of the school
committee by old Captain Lycurgus Batcheldor, whose two
grandchildren were among the ramblers.
"Say," demanded Captain Lycurgus, "how old does a young-one have to
be afore it's supposed to know how much four times eight is? My
Sarah's Nathan is pretty nigh ten and HE don't know it. Gave me
three answers he did; first that 'twas forty-eight, then that 'twas
eighty-four and then that he'd forgot what 'twas. But I noticed he
could tell me a whole string about some feller called Lockintar or
Lochinvar or some such outlandish name, and not only his name but
where he came from, which was out west somewheres. A poetry piece
'twas; Nate said the teacher'd been speakin' it to 'em. I ain't
got no objection to speakin' pieces, but I do object to bein' told
that four times eight is eighty-four, 'specially when I'm buyin'
codfish at eight cents a pound. I ain't on the school committee,
but if I was--"
So the committee investigated and when Miss Thompson's year was up
and the question arose as to her re-engagement, there was
considerable hesitancy. But the situation was relieved in a most
unexpected fashion. Thaddeus Winslow, first mate on the clipper
ship, "Owner's Favorite," at home from a voyage to the Dutch East
Indies, fell in love with Miss Floretta, proposed, was accepted and
It was an odd match: Floretta, pale, polite, impractical and
intensely romantic; Thad, florid, rough and to the point. Yet the
married pair seemed to be happy together. Winslow went to sea on
several voyages and, four years after the marriage, remained at
home for what, for him, was a long time. During that time a child,
a boy, was born.
The story of the christening of that child is one of Orham's pet
yarns even to this day. It seems that there was a marked
disagreement concerning the name to be given him. Captain Thad had
had an Uncle Edgar, who had been very kind to him when a boy. The
captain wished to name his own youngster after this uncle. But
Floretta's heart was set upon "Wilfred," her favorite hero of
romance being Wilfred of Ivanhoe. The story is that the parents
being no nearer an agreement on the great question, Floretta made a
proposal of compromise. She proposed that her husband take up his
stand by the bedroom window and the first male person he saw
passing on the sidewalk below, the name of that person should be
given to their offspring; a sporting proposition certainly. But
the story goes on to detract a bit from the sporting element by
explaining that Mrs. Winslow was expecting a call at that hour from
the Baptist minister, and the Baptist minister's Christian name was
"Clarence," which, if not quite as romantic as Wilfred, is by no
means common and prosaic. Captain Thad, who had not been informed
of the expected ministerial call and was something of a sport
himself, assented to the arrangement. It was solemnly agreed that
the name of the first male passer-by should be the name of the new
Winslow. The captain took up his post of observation at the window
He did not have to wait long. Unfortunately for romance, the
Reverend Clarence was detained at the home of another parishioner a
trifle longer than he had planned and the first masculine to pass
the Winslow home was old Jedidah Wingate, the fish peddler. Mrs.
Diadama Busteed, who was acting as nurse in the family and had been
sworn in as witness to the agreement between husband and wife,
declared to the day of her death that that death was hastened by
the shock to her nervous and moral system caused by Captain Thad's
language when old Jedidah hove in sight. He vowed over and over
again that he would be everlastingly condemned if he would label a
young-one of his with such a crashety-blank-blanked outrage of a
name as "Jedidah." "Jedidiah" was bad enough, but there WERE a few
Jedidiahs in Ostable County, whereas there was but one Jedidah.
Mrs. Winslow, who did not fancy Jedidah any more than her husband
did, wept; Captain Thad's profanity impregnated the air with
brimstone. But they had solemnly sworn to the agreement and Mrs.
Busteed had witnessed it, and an oath is an oath. Besides, Mrs.
Winslow was inclined to think the whole matter guided by Fate, and,
being superstitious as well as romantic, feared dire calamity if
Fate was interfered with. It ended in a compromise and, a
fortnight later, the Reverend Clarence, keeping his countenance
with difficulty, christened a red-faced and protesting infant
"Jedidah Edgar Wilfred Winslow."
Jedidah Edgar Wilfred grew up. At first he was called "Edgar" by
his father and "Wilfred" by his mother. His teachers, day school
and Sunday school, called him one or the other as suited their
individual fancies. But his schoolmates and playfellows, knowing
that he hated the name above all else on earth, gleefully hailed
him as "Jedidah." By the time he was ten he was "Jed" Winslow
beyond hope of recovery. Also it was settled locally that he was
"queer"--not "cracked" or "lacking," which would have implied that
his brain was affected--but just "queer," which meant that his ways
of thinking and acting were different from those of Orham in
His father, Captain Thaddeus, died when Jed was fifteen, just
through the grammar school and ready to enter the high. He did not
enter; instead, the need of money being pressing, he went to work
in one of the local stores, selling behind the counter. If his
father had lived he would, probably, have gone away after finishing
high school and perhaps, if by that time the mechanical ability
which he possessed had shown itself, he might even have gone to
some technical school or college. In that case Jed Winslow's
career might have been very, very different. But instead he went
to selling groceries, boots, shoes, dry goods and notions for Mr.
Seth Wingate, old Jedidah's younger brother.
As a grocery clerk Jed was not a success, neither did he shine as a
clerk in the post office, nor as an assistant to the local
expressman. In desperation he began to learn the carpenter's trade
and, because he liked to handle tools, did pretty well at it. But
he continued to be "queer" and his absent-minded dreaminess was in
evidence even then.
"I snum I don't know what to make of him," declared Mr. Abijah
Mullett, who was the youth's "boss." "Never know just what he's
goin' to do or just what he's goin' to say. I says to him
yesterday: 'Jed,' says I, 'you do pretty well with tools and wood,
considerin' what little experience you've had. Did Cap'n Thad
teach you some or did you pick it up yourself?' He never answered
for a minute or so, seemed to be way off dreamin' in the next
county somewheres. Then he looked at me with them big eyes of his
and he drawled out: 'Comes natural to me, Mr. Mullett, I guess,' he
says. 'There seems to be a sort of family feelin' between my head
and a chunk of wood.' Now what kind of an answer was that, I want
Jed worked at carpentering for a number of years, sometimes going
as far away as Ostable to obtain employment. And then his mother
was seized with the illness from which, so she said, she never
recovered. It is true that Doctor Parker, the Orham physician,
declared that she had recovered, or might recover if she cared to.
Which of the pair was right does not really matter. At all events
Mrs. Winslow, whether she recovered or not, never walked abroad
again. She was "up and about," as they say in Orham, and did some
housework, after a fashion, but she never again set foot across the
granite doorstep of the Winslow cottage. Probably the poor woman's
mind was slightly affected; it is charitable to hope that it was.
It seems the only reasonable excuse for the oddity of her behavior
during the last twenty years of her life, for her growing
querulousness and selfishness and for the exacting slavery in which
she kept her only son.
During those twenty years whatever ambition Jedidah Edgar Wilfred
may once have had was thoroughly crushed. His mother would not
hear of his leaving her to find better work or to obtain promotion.
She needed him, she wailed; he was her life, her all; she should
die if he left her. Some hard-hearted townspeople, Captain
Hunniwell among them, disgustedly opined that, in view of such a
result, Jed should be forcibly kidnaped forthwith for the general
betterment of the community. But Jed himself never rebelled. He
cheerfully gave up his youth and early middle age to his mother and
waited upon her, ran her errands, sat beside her practically every
evening and read romance after romance aloud for her benefit. And
his "queerness" developed, as under such circumstances it was bound
Money had to be earned and, as the invalid would not permit him to
leave her to earn it, it was necessary to find ways of earning it
at home. Jed did odd jobs of carpentering and cabinet making, went
fishing sometimes, worked in gardens between times, did almost
anything, in fact, to bring in the needed dollars. And when he was
thirty-eight years old he made and sold his first "Cape Cod Winslow
windmill," the forerunner of the thousands to follow. That mill,
made in some of his rare idle moments and given to the child of a
wealthy summer visitor, made a hit. The child liked it and other
children wanted mills just like it. Then "grown-ups" among the
summer folk took up the craze. "Winslow mills" became the fad.
Jed built his little shop, or the first installment of it.
Mrs. Floretta Winslow died when her son was forty. A merciful
release, Captain Sam and the rest called it, but to Jed it was a
stunning shock. He had no one to take care of now except himself
and he did not know what to do. He moped about like a deserted
cat. Finally he decided that he could not live in the old house
where he was born and had lived all his life. He expressed his
feelings concerning that house to his nearest friend, practically
his sole confidant, Captain Sam.
"I can't somehow seem to stand it, Sam," he said, solemnly. "I
can't stay in that house alone any longer, it's--it's too
The captain, who had expected almost anything but that, stared at
"Sociable!" he repeated. "You're sailin' stern first, Jed.
Lonesome's what you mean, of course."
Jed shook his head.
"No-o," he drawled, "I mean sociable. There's too many boys in
there, for one thing."
"Boys!" Captain Sam was beginning to be really alarmed now.
"Boys! Say--say, Jed Winslow, you come along home to dinner with
me. I bet you've forgot to eat anything for the last day or so--
been inventin' some new kind of whirlagig or other--and your empty
stomach's gone to your head and made it dizzy. Boys! Gracious
king! Come on home with me."
Jed smiled his slow smile. "I don't mean real boys, Sam," he
explained. "I mean me--I'm the boys. Nights now when I'm walkin'
around in that house alone I meet myself comin' round every corner.
Me when I was five, comin' out of the buttery with a cooky in each
fist; and me when I was ten sittin' studyin' my lesson book in the
corner; and me when I was fifteen, just afore Father died, sittin'
all alone thinkin' what I'd do when I went to Boston Tech same as
he said he was cal'latin' to send me. Then--"
He paused and lapsed into one of his fits of musing. His friend
drew a breath of relief.
"Oh!" he exclaimed. "Well, I don't mind your meetin' yourself. I
thought first you'd gone off your head, blessed if I didn't.
You're a queer critter, Jed. Get those funny notions from readin'
so many books, I guess likely. Meetin' yourself! What an idea
that is! I suppose you mean that, bein' alone in that house where
you've lived since you was born, you naturally get to thinkin'
about what used to be."
Jed stared wistfully at the back of a chair.
"Um-hm," he murmured, "and what might have been--and--and ain't."
The captain nodded. Of all the people in Orham he, he prided
himself, was the only one who thoroughly understood Jed Winslow.
And sometimes he did partially understand him; this was one of the
"Now--now--now," he said, hastily, "don't you get to frettin'
yourself about your not amountin' to anything and all that. You've
got a nice little trade of your own buildin' up here. What more do
you want? We can't all be--er--Know-it-alls like Shakespeare, or--
or rich as Standard Oil Companies, can we? Look here, what do you
waste your time goin' back twenty-five years and meetin' yourself
for? Why don't you look ahead ten or fifteen and try to meet
yourself then? You may be a millionaire, a--er--windmill trust or
somethin' of that kind, by that time. Eh? Ha, ha!"
Jed rubbed his chin.
"When I meet myself lookin' like a millionaire," he observed,
gravely, "I'll have to do the way you do at your bank, Sam--call in
somebody to identify me."
Captain Sam laughed. "Well, anyhow," he said, "don't talk any more
foolishness about not livin' in your own house. If I was you--"
Mr. Winslow interrupted. "Sam," he said, "the way to find out what
you would do if you was me is to make sure WHAT you'd do--and then
do t'other thing, or somethin' worse."
"Oh, Jed, be reasonable."
Jed looked over his spectacles. "Sam," he drawled, "if I was
reasonable I wouldn't be me."
And he lived no longer in the old house. Having made up his mind,
he built a small two-room addition to his workshop and lived in
that. Later he added a sleeping room--a sort of loft--and a little
covered porch on the side toward the sea. Here, in pleasant summer
twilights or on moonlight nights, he sat and smoked. He had a good
many callers and but few real friends. Most of the townspeople
liked him, but almost all considered him a joke, an oddity, a
specimen to be pointed out to those of the summer people who were
looking for "types." A few, like Mr. Gabriel Bearse, who
distinctly did NOT understand him and who found his solemn
suggestions and pointed repartee irritating at times, were inclined
to refer to him in these moments of irritation as "town crank."
But they did not really mean it when they said it. And some
others, like Leander Babbitt or Captain Hunniwell, came to ask his
advice on personal matters, although even they patronized him just
a little. He had various nicknames, "Shavings" being the most
His peculiar business, the making of wooden mills, toys and weather
vanes, had grown steadily. Now he shipped many boxes of these to
other seashore and mountain resorts. He might have doubled his
output had he chosen to employ help or to enlarge his plant, but he
would not do so. He had rented the old Winslow house furnished
once to a summer tenant, but he never did so again, although he had
many opportunities. He lived alone in the addition to the little
workshop, cooking his own meals, making his own bed, and sewing on
his own buttons.
And on the day following that upon which Leander Babbitt enrolled
to fight for Uncle Sam, Jedidah Edgar Wilfred Winslow was forty-
five years old.
He was conscious of that fact when he arose. It was a pleasant
morning, the sun was rising over the notched horizon of the
tumbling ocean, the breeze was blowing, the surf on the bar was
frothing and roaring cheerily--and it was his birthday. The
morning, the sunrise, the surf and all the rest were pleasant to
contemplate--his age was not. So he decided not to contemplate it.
Instead he went out and hoisted at the top of the short pole on the
edge of the bluff the flag he had set there on the day when the
United States declared war against the Hun. He hoisted it every
fine morning and he took it in every night.
He stood for a moment, watching the red, white and blue flapping
bravely in the morning sunshine, then he went back into his little
kitchen at the rear of the workshop and set about cooking his
breakfast. The kitchen was about as big as a good-sized packing
box and Jed, standing over the oilstove, could reach any shelf in
sight without moving. He cooked his oatmeal porridge, boiled his
egg and then sat down at the table in the next room--his combined
living and dining-room and not very much bigger than the kitchen--
to eat. When he had finished, he washed the dishes, walked up to
the post office for the mail and then, entering the workshop, took
up the paint brush and the top sailor-man of the pile beside him
and began work. This, except on Sundays, was his usual morning
routine. It varied little, except that he occasionally sawed or
whittled instead of painted, or, less occasionally still, boxed
some of his wares for shipment.
During the forenoon he had some visitors. A group of summer people
from the hotel came in and, after pawing over and displacing about
half of the movable stock, bought ten or fifteen dollars' worth and
departed. Mr. Winslow had the satisfaction of hearing them burst
into a shout of laughter as they emerged into the yard and the
shrill voice of one of the females in the party rose above the
hilarity with: "Isn't he the WEIRDEST thing!" And an accompanying
male voice appraised him as "Some guy, believe me! S-o-o-me guy!"
Jed winced a little, but he went on with his painting. On one's
forty-fifth birthday one has acquired or should have acquired a
certain measure of philosophical resignation.
Other customers or lookers came and went. Maud Hunniwell, Captain
Sam's daughter, dropped in on her way to the post office. The
captain was a widower and Maud was his only child. She was,
therefore, more than the apple of his eye, she was a whole orchard
of apples. She was eighteen, pretty and vivacious, and her father
made a thorough job of spoiling her. Not that the spoiling had
injured her to any great extent, it had not as yet, but that was
Captain Sam's good luck. Maud was wearing a new dress--she had a
new one every week or so--and she came into the windmill shop to
show it. Of course she would have denied that that was the reason
for her coming, but the statement stands, nevertheless. She and
Jed were great chums and had been since she could walk. She liked
him, took his part when she heard him criticized or made fun of,
and was always prettily confidential and friendly when they were
alone together. Of course there was a touch of superiority and
patronage in her friendship. She should not be blamed for this;
all Orham, consciously or unconsciously, patronized Jed Winslow.
She came into the inner shop and sat down upon the same upturned
box upon which her father had sat the afternoon before. Her first
remark, after "good mornings" had been exchanged, was concerning
the "Private" sign on the inner side of the door.
"What in the world have you put that sign inside here for?" she
Mr. Winslow explained, taking his own deliberate time in making the
explanation. Miss Hunniwell wrinkled her dainty upturned nose and
burst into a trill of laughter.
"Oh, that's lovely," she declared, "and just like you, besides.
And do you think Gabe Bearse will go back into the other room when
he sees it?"
Jed looked dreamily over his spectacles at the sign. "I don't
know," he drawled. "If I thought he'd go wherever that sign was I
ain't sure but I'd tack it on the cover of the well out in the yard
His fair visitor laughed again. "Why, Jed," she exclaimed. "You
wouldn't want to drown him, would you?"
Jed seemed to reflect. "No-o," he answered, slowly, "don't know's
I would--not in my well, anyhow."
Miss Hunniwell declared that that was all nonsense. "You wouldn't
drown a kitten," she said. "I know that because when Mrs.
Nathaniel Rogers' old white cat brought all her kittens over here
the first of this summer you wouldn't even put them out in the yard
at night, to say nothing of drowning them. All six and the mother
cat stayed here and fairly swarmed over you and ate you out of
house and home. Father said he believed they fed at the first
table and you were taking what was left. It was a mercy the old
cat decided to lead them back to the Rogers' again or I don't know
WHAT might have become of you by this time."
Jed seemed to be thinking; there was a reminiscent twinkle in his
"The old cat didn't lead 'em back," he said. "Nathaniel took 'em
back. Didn't I ever tell you about that?"
"No, you didn't. You KNOW you didn't. Mr. Rogers took them back?
I can't believe it. He told everywhere about town that he was glad
to get rid of the whole family and, as you and the cats seemed to
be mutually happy together, he wasn't going to disturb you. He
thought it was a great joke on you. And he took them back himself?
Mr. Winslow rubbed his chin. "I don't know's I'd ought to say
anything about it," he said. "I haven't afore. I wouldn't
interfere with Nate's sales for anything."
"Sales? Sales of what? Oh, you mean thing! Don't be so
provoking! Tell me the whole story this minute."
Jed painted a moment or two. Then he said: "We-ell, Maud, you see
those kittens got to be kind of a nuisance. They was cunnin' and
cute and all that, but they was so everlastin' lively and hungry
that they didn't give me much of a chance. I was only one, you
see, and they had a majority vote every time on who should have the
bed and the chairs and the table and one thing or 'nother. If I
sat down I sat on a cat. If I went to bed I laid down on cats, and
when I turned them out and turned in myself they came and laid down
on ME. I slept under fur blankets most of June. And as for
eatin'-- Well, every time I cooked meat or fish they sat down in a
circle and whooped for some. When I took it off the fire and put
it in a plate on the table, I had to put another plate and a--a
plane or somethin' heavy on top of it or they'd have had it sartin
sure. Then when I sat down to eat it they formed a circle again
like a reg'lar band and tuned up and hollered. Lord a-mercy, HOW
they did holler! And if one of the kittens stopped, run out of
wind or got a sore throat or anything, the old cat would bite it to
set it goin' again. She wan't goin' to have any shirkin' in HER
orchestra. I ate to music, as you might say, same as I've read
they do up to Boston restaurants. And about everything I did eat
was stuffed with cats' hairs. Seemed sometimes as if those kittens
was solid fur all the way through; they never could have shed all
that hair from the outside. Somebody told me that kittens never
shed hair, 'twas only full grown cats did that. I don't believe
it. Nate Rogers' old maltee never shed all that alone; allowin'
her a half barrel, there was all of another barrel spread around
the premises. No-o, those cats was a good deal of a nuisance.
Um-hm. . . . Yes, they was. . . ."
He paused and, apparently having forgotten that he was in the
middle of a story, began to whistle lugubriously and to bend all
his other energies to painting. Miss Hunniwell, who had laughed
until her eyes were misty, wiped them with her handkerchief and
commanded him to go on.
"Tell me the rest of it," she insisted. "How did you get rid of
them? How did Mr. Rogers come to take them back?"
"Eh? . . . Oh, why, you see, I went over to Nate's three or four
times and told him his cat and kittens were here and I didn't feel
right to deprive him of 'em any longer. He said never mind, I
could keep 'em long as I wanted to. I said that was about as long
as I had kept 'em. Then he said he didn't know's he cared about
ever havin' 'em again; said he and his wife had kind of lost their
taste for cats, seemed so. I--well, I hinted that, long as the
tribe was at my house I wan't likely to have a chance to taste much
of anything, but it didn't seem to have much effect. Then--"
"Yes, yes; go on! go on!"
"Oh. . . . Then one day Nate he happened to be in here--come to
borrow somethin', some tool seems to me 'twas--and the cats was
climbin' round promiscuous same as usual. And one of the summer
women came in while he was here, wanted a mill for her little niece
or somethin'. And she saw one of the animals and she dropped
everything else and sang out: 'Oh, what a beautiful kitten! What
unusual coloring! May I see it?' Course she was seein' it
already, but I judged she meant could she handle it, so I tried to
haul the critter loose from my leg--there was generally one or more
of 'em shinnin' over me somewhere. It squalled when I took hold of
it and she says: 'Oh, it doesn't want to come, does it! It must
have a very affectionate disposition to be so attached to you.'
Seemed to me 'twas attached by its claws more'n its disposition,
but I pried it loose and handed it to her. Then she says again,
'What unusual colorin'! Will you sell this one to me? I'll give
you five dollars for it.'"
He stopped again. Another reminder from Miss Hunniwell was
necessary to make him continue.
"And you sold one of those kittens for five dollars?" she cried.
"You didn't? Why, you foolish man! Why not?"
"I never had a chance. Afore I could say a word Nate Rogers spoke
up and said the kittens belonged to him. Then she saw another one
that she hadn't seen afore and she says: 'Oh, that one has more
unusual colorin's even than this. I never saw such color in a
cat.' Course she meant ON a cat but we understood what she meant.
'Are they a very rare breed?' she asked. Nate said they was and--"
Miss Hunniwell interrupted. "But they weren't, were they?" she
cried. "I never knew they were anything more than plain tabby."
Jed shook his head. "Nate said they was," he went on solemnly.
"He said they were awful rare. Then she wanted to know would he
sell one for five dollars. He said no, he couldn't think of it."
"Why, the greedy old thing!"
"And so he and she had it back and forth and finally they struck a
bargain at seven dollars for the one that looked most like a crazy
"Seven dollars for a CAT? What color was it, for goodness' sake?"
"Oh, all kinds, seemed so. Black and white and maltee and blue and
red and green--"
"Green! What ARE you talking about? Who ever saw a green cat?"
"This woman saw one that was part green and she bought it. Then
she said she'd take it right along in her car. Said she had a
friend that was as loony about cats as she was and she was goin' to
fetch her right down the very next day. And a couple of hours
after she'd gone Nate and his boy came back with a clothes basket
with a board over the top and loaded in the balance of the family
and went off with 'em. I ain't seen a hair of 'em since--no, I
won't say that quite, but I ain't seen THEM."
"And didn't he give you any of the seven dollars?"
"But you had been feeding those kittens and their mother for weeks."
"But didn't you ASK for anything?"
"We-ll, I told Nate he might maybe leave one of the kittens, so's I
could have a--er--souvenir of the visit, but he wouldn't do it.
Said those kittens was rare and--er--precious, or words to that
effect. He didn't intend to let another go as cheap as he had that
"Oh. . . . I see. I remember now; I heard some one saying
something, early in July, about the sign on the Rogers' front
fence. 'Rare Cats for Sale' they said it was. I think. Of
course, I never thought of THOSE kittens. He must have sold them
all, for the sign isn't there now."
Jed whistled a few bars. "I don't hardly think he's sold 'em," he
said. "I presume likely he's just gone out of the business."
"I don't see why he shouldn't sell them. Green cats ought to sell
quickly enough, I should think. Were they green, honest and truly,
Mr. Winslow nodded.
"They were that mornin'," he drawled, solemnly.
"That morning? What do you mean?"
"We-ll, you see, Maud, those kittens were into everything and over
everything most of the time. Four of 'em had got in here early
afore I came downstairs that day and had been playin' hide and hoot
amongst my paint pots. They was green in spots, sure enough, but I
had my doubts as to its bein' fast color."
Maud laughed joyfully over the secret of the green pussies.
"I wish I might have seen that woman's face after the colors began
to wear off her 'rare' kitten," she said.
Jed smiled slightly. "Nathan saw it," he said. "I understood he
had to take back the kitten and give up the seven dollars. He
don't hardly speak to me nowadays. Seems to think 'twas my fault.
I don't hardly think 'twas, do you?"
Miss Hunniwell's call lasted almost an hour. Besides a general
chat concerning Leander Babbit's voluntary enlistment, the subject
which all Orham had discussed since the previous afternoon, she had
a fresh bit of news. The government had leased a large section of
land along the bay at East Harniss, the next village to Orham and
seven or eight miles distant, and there was to be a military
aviation camp there.
"Oh, it's true!" she declared, emphatically. "Father has known
that the Army people have been thinking of it for some time, but it
was really decided and the leases signed only last Saturday. They
will begin building the barracks and the buildings--the--oh, what
do they call those big sheds they keep the aeroplanes in?"
"The hangars," said Winslow, promptly.
"Yes, that's it. They will begin building those right away." She
paused and looked at him curiously. "How did you know they called
them hangars, Jed?" she asked.
"Eh? . . . Oh, I've read about 'em in the newspapers, that's
all. . . . H-u-u-m. . . . So we'll have aeroplanes flyin' around
here pretty soon, I suppose. Well, well!"
"Yes. And there'll be lots and lots of the flying men--the what-
do-you-call-'ems--aviators, and officers in uniform--and all sorts.
What fun! I'm just crazy about uniforms!"
Her eyes snapped. Jed, in his quiet way, seemed excited, too. He
was gazing absently out of the window as if he saw, in fancy, a
procession of aircraft flying over Orham flats.
"They'll be flyin' up out there," he said, musingly. "And I'll see
'em--I will. Sho!"
Miss Hunniwell regarded him mischievously. "Jed," she asked,
"would you like to be an aviator?"
Jed's answer was solemnly given. "I'm afraid I shouldn't be much
good at the job," he drawled.
His visitor burst into another laugh. He looked at her over his
"What is it?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing; I--I was just thinking of you in a uniform, that's
Jed smiled his slow, fleeting smile.
"I guess likely I would be pretty funny," he admitted. "Any
Germans I met would probably die laughin' and that might help along
But after Miss Hunniwell had gone he sat for some minutes gazing
out of the window, the wistful, dreamy look on his lean, homely
face. Then he sighed, and resumed his painting.
That afternoon, about half past five, he was still at his task
when, hearing the doorbell ring, he rose and went into the front
shop. To his astonishment the shop was empty. He looked about for
the expected customer or caller, whoever he or she might be, and
saw no one. He stepped to the window and looked out, but there was
no one on the steps or in the yard. He made up his mind that he
must have dreamed of the bell-ringing and was turning back to the
inner room, when a voice said:
"Please, are you the windmill man?"
Jed started, turned again, and stared about him.
"Please, sir, here I am," said the voice.
Jed, looking down, instead of up or on a level, saw his visitor
then. That is, he saw a tumbled shock of curls and a pair of big
round eyes looking up at him over a stock of weather vanes.
"Hello!" he exclaimed, in surprise.
The curls and eyes came out from behind the stack of vanes. They
were parts of a little girl, and the little girl made him a demure
"How do you do?" she said.
Jed regarded her in silence for a moment. Then, "Why, I'm fair to
middlin' smart just at present," he drawled. "How do YOU find
The young lady's answer was prompt and to the point. "I'm nicely,
thank you," she replied, and added: "I was sick at my stomach
This bit of personal information being quite unexpected, Mr.
Winslow scarcely knew what comment to make in reply to it.
"Sho!" he exclaimed. "Was you, though?"
"Yes. Mamma says she is 'clined to think it was the two whole
bananas and the choc'late creams, but I think it was the fried
potatoes. I was sick twice--no, three times. Please, I asked you
something. Are you the windmill man?"
Jed, by this time very much amused, looked her over once more. She
was a pretty little thing, although just at this time it is
doubtful if any of her family or those closely associated with her
would have admitted it. Her face was not too clean, her frock was
soiled and mussed, her curls had been blown into a tangle and there
were smooches, Jed guessed them to be blackberry stains, on her
hands, around her mouth and even across her small nose. She had a
doll, its raiment in about the same condition as her own, tucked
under one arm. Hat she had none.
Mr. Winslow inspected her in his accustomed deliberate fashion.
"Guess you've been havin' a pretty good time, haven't you?" he
The small visitor's answer was given with dignity.
"Yes," she said. "Will you please tell me if you are the windmill
Jed accepted the snub with outward humility and inward appreciation.
"Why, yes," he admitted; "I presume likely I'm the windmill man.
Is there anything I can do for you this evenin'?"
Apparently there was, for the child, untucking the doll from
beneath her right arm and tucking it under the left, pointed her
right hand at a wooden weather-vane in the shape of a sperm whale
"Please, does that fish go 'round?"
"Go 'round? Go 'round where?"
"I mean does it go 'round and 'round on a stick?"
"Cal'late it does when it has a chance."
"And does it make the wind blow no'theast by no'th and--and like
"Eh? Make the wind blow--how?"
"I mean does it make the wind blow different ways, no'theast by
no'th and cantin' 'round to the sou-east and--and those ways?
Captain Hedge has got a fish up on his barn that used to do that,
but now it won't 'cause he cal'lates it's rusted fast. He said he
guessed he would have to be getting a new one. When I saw the
fishes out in your yard I thought about it and I thought I would
come in and see if you had the right kind. Is this one a--a
"A WHICH fish?"
"A gunfish. No, that isn't it. A--a swordfish, that's it.
Captain Hedge's is a swordfish."
"We-ll, that particular one got a wrong start and ended up by bein'
a whale, but I shouldn't wonder if we could find a swordfish if we
looked. Yes, here's one. Think that would do?"
The child looked it over very carefully.
"Yes," she said, "I think it would. If you're sure it would make
the wind go right."
"We-ll, I guess likely I could guarantee that fish would go 'most
any way the wind did, unless it should take a notion to blow
straight up and down, which don't happen often. So you know Cap'n
Hedge, do you? Relation of his, are you? Visitin' there?"
"No. Mamma and I are boarding at Mrs. Smalley's, but I go over to
call on Captain Hedge 'most every day."
"Sho! Want to know! Well, that's nice and sociable. So you're
boardin' at Luretta Smalley's. My! you're consider'ble ways from
home, ain't you? Is your mamma with you?"
For the first time the youthful caller's poise seemed a trifle
"No-o . . . no," she stammered, and added, hastily: "How much is
this fish, please?"
"I generally sell that sort of fish for about two dollars." He
looked out of the window, hummed a tune, and then added: "Let's
see, what did you say your name was?"
"I didn't, but it's Barbara Armstrong. HOW much did you say the
"Eh? . . . Oh, two dollars."
Miss Armstrong looked very much disappointed.
"Oh, dear," she sighed. "I didn't know it would be as much as
that. I--I'm 'fraid I can't get it."
"So? That's too bad. What was you cal'latin' to do with it, if
you did get it?"
"I was going to give it to Captain Hedge. He misses his, now that
it's rusted so fast that it won't go. But I can't get it. I
haven't got but fourteen cents, ten that Mamma gave me this morning
for being a good girl and taking my medicine nice yesterday, and
four that Mrs. Smalley gave me for getting the eggs last week. And
two dollars is EVER so much more than fourteen cents, isn't it?"
"Hum. . . . 'Tis a little more, that's right. It's considered
more by the--um--er--best authorities. Hum . . . er . . . h-u-u-m.
Sometimes, though, I do take off a little somethin' for spot cash.
You'd pay spot cash, I presume likely, wouldn't you?"
"I--I don't know what spot cash is. I'd pay fourteen cents."
Jed rubbed his chin. "We-e-ll," he drawled, gravely, "I'm afraid I
couldn't hardly knock off all that that comes to. But," taking
another and much smaller vane from a shelf, "there's an article,
not quite so big, that I usually get fifty cents for. What do you
think of that?"
The child took the miniature swordfish and inspected it carefully.
"It's a baby one, isn't it," she observed. "Will it tell wind just
as good as the big one?"
"Tell wind? Hum! . . . Don't know's I ever heard it put just that
way afore. But a clock tells time, so I suppose there's no reason
why a vane shouldn't tell wind. Yes, I guess 'twill tell wind all
"Then I think it might do." She seemed a little doubtful. "Only,"
she added, "fifty cents is lots more than fourteen, isn't it?"
Mr. Winslow admitted that it was. "But I tell you," he said, after
another period of reflection, "seein' as it's you I'll make a
proposal to you. Cap'n Eri Hedge is a pretty good friend of mine,
same as he is of yours. Suppose you and I go in partners. You put
in your fourteen cents and I'll put in the rest of the swordfish.
Then you can take it to Cap'n Eri and tell him that we're givin' it
to him together. You just consider that plan for a minute now,
Miss Armstrong looked doubtful.
"I--I don't know as I know what you mean," she said. "What did you
want me to do?"
"Why, consider the plan. You know what 'consider' means, don't
"I know a Mother Goose with it in. That one about the piper and
Back to Full Books