Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 2 out of 8
'He took up his pipes and he played her a tune,
Consider, old cow, consider.'
But I don't know as I SURELY know what he wanted the cow to do?
Does 'consider' mean see if you like it?"
"That's the idea. Think it over and see if you'd like to go halves
with me givin' the fish to Cap'n Hedge."
The curls moved vigorously up and down.
"I think I should," she decided.
"Good! Now you wait and I'll do it up."
He wrapped the toy vane in a piece of paper and handed it to his
small patron. She gravely produced a miniature velvet purse with
the remnants of some bead fringe hanging to its lower edge and laid
a dime and four pennies on the top of a packing case between them.
It was growing dark in the shop and Jed lighted one of the bracket
lamps. Returning, he found the coins laid in a row and Miss
Armstrong regarding them somewhat soberly.
"There isn't any MORE than fourteen, is there?" she asked. "I
mean--I mean fourteen cents takes all of it, doesn't it?"
Jed looked at her face. His eye twinkled.
"Well, suppose it didn't?" he asked. "What then?"
She hesitated. "Why," she stammered, "if--if there was ONE left
over I--maybe I could buy something tomorrow at the candy store.
Not to-day, 'cause I told Mamma I wouldn't to-day 'cause I was sick
at my stomach yesterday--but to-morrow I could."
Mr. Winslow carefully counted the coins and then, spreading them
out on his big palm, showed them to her.
"There!" he said. "Now you've given me the fourteen cents. I've
got 'em, haven't I?"
Miss Barbara solemnly nodded.
"Yes," continued Jed. "Now I'll put 'em back in your wallet again.
There they are, shut up in the wallet. Now you put the wallet in
your pocket. Now take your fish bundle under your arm. There! now
everything's settled. You've got the fish, haven't you? Sartin'.
Yes, and I've been paid for it, haven't I?"
The child stared at him.
"But--but--" she began.
"Now--now don't let's argue about it," pleaded Jed, plaintively.
"Argum always gives me the--er--epizootic or somethin'. You saw me
have the money right in my hand. It's all settled; think it over
and see if it ain't. You've got the fish and I've HAD the fourteen
cents. Now run right along home and don't get lost. Good-night."
He led her gently to the door and closed it behind her. Then,
smiling and shaking his head, he returned to the inner shop, where
he lit the lamps and sat down for another bit of painting before
supper. But that bit was destined not to be done that night. He
had scarcely picked up his brush before the doorbell rang once
more. Returning to the outer room, he found his recent visitor,
the swordfish under one arm and the doll under the other, standing
in the aisle between the stacked mills and vanes and looking, so it
seemed to him, considerably perturbed.
"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "Back again so soon? What's the
matter; forget somethin', did you?"
Miss Armstrong shook her head.
"No-o," she said. "But--but--"
"Yes? But what?"
"Don't you think--don't you think it is pretty dark for little
girls to be out?"
Jed looked at her, stepped to the door, opened it and looked out,
and then turned back again.
"Why," he admitted, "it is gettin' a little shadowy in the corners,
maybe. It will be darker in an hour or so. But you think it's too
dark for little girls already, eh?"
She nodded. "I don't think Mamma would like me to be out when it's
so awful dark," she said.
"Hum! . . . Hum. . . . Does your mamma know where you are?"
The young lady's toe marked a circle on the shop floor.
"No-o," she confessed, "I--I guess she doesn't, not just exactly."
"I shouldn't be surprised. And so you've come back because you was
She swallowed hard and edged a little nearer to him.
"No-o," she declared, stoutly, "I--I wasn't afraid, not very; but--
but I thought the--the swordfish was pretty heavy to carry all
alone and--and so--"
Jed laughed aloud, something that he rarely did.
"Good for you, sis!" he exclaimed. "Now you just wait until I get
my hat and we'll carry that heavy fish home together."
Miss Armstrong looked decidedly happier.
"Thank you very much," she said. "And--and, if you please, my name
The Smalley residence, where Mrs. Luretta Smalley, relict of the
late Zenas T., accommodated a few "paying guests," was nearly a
mile from the windmill shop and on the Orham "lower road." Mr.
Winslow and his new acquaintance took the short cuts, through by-
paths and across fields, and the young lady appeared to have
thoroughly recovered from her misgivings concerning the dark--in
reality it was scarcely dusk--and her doubts concerning her ability
to carry the "heavy" swordfish without help. At all events she
insisted upon carrying it alone, telling her companion that she
thought perhaps he had better not touch it as it was so very, very
brittle and might get broken, and consoling him by offering to
permit him to carry Petunia, which fragrant appellation, it
appeared, was the name of the doll.
"I named her Petunia after a flower," she explained. "I think she
looks like a flower, don't you?"
If she did it was a wilted one. However, Miss Armstrong did not
wait for comment on the part of her escort, but chatted straight
on. Jed learned that her mother's name was Mrs. Ruth Phillips
Armstrong. "It used to be Mrs. Seymour Armstrong, but it isn't
now, because Papa's name was Doctor Seymour Armstrong and he died,
you know." And they lived in a central Connecticut city, but
perhaps they weren't going to live there any more because Mamma had
sold the house and didn't know exactly WHAT to do. And they had
been in Orham ever since before the Fourth of July, and they liked
it EVER so much, it was so quaint and--and "franteek"--
Jed interrupted here. "So quaint and what?" he demanded.
"Franteek." Miss Barbara herself seemed a little doubtful of the
word. At any rate Mamma said it was something like that, and it
meant they liked it anyway. So Mr. Winslow was left to ponder
whether "antique" or "unique" was intended and to follow his train
of thought wherever it chanced to lead him, while the child
prattled on. They came in sight of the Smalley front gate and Jed
came out of his walking trance to hear her say:
"Anyway, we like it all but the sal'ratus biscuits and the coffee
and THEY are dreadful. Mamma thinks it's made of chickenry--the
coffee, I mean."
At the gate Jed's "queerness," or shyness, came upon him. The idea
of meeting Mrs. Armstrong or even the members of the Smalley family
he shrank from. Barbara invited him to come in, but he refused
even to accompany her to the door.
"I'll just run along now," he said, hurriedly. "Good night."
The child put out her hand. "Good night," she said. "Thank you
very much for helping me carry the fish home. I'm coming to see
you again some day."
She scampered up the walk. Jed, waiting in the shadow of the lilac
bushes by the fence, saw her rattle the latch of the door, saw the
door open and the child caught up in the arms of a woman, who
cried: "Oh, Babbie, dear, where HAVE you been? Mamma was SO
He smiled over the memory of the little girl's visit more than once
that evening. He was very fond of children and their society did
not embarrass or annoy him as did the company of most grown-ups--
strangers, that is. He remembered portions of Miss Barbara's
conversation and determined to repeat them to Captain Sam
Hunniwell, the next time the latter called.
And that next time was the following forenoon. Captain Sam, on the
way to his office at the bank, stopped his car at the edge of the
sidewalk and came into the shop. Jed, having finished painting
wooden sailors for the present, was boxing an assorted collection
of mills and vanes to be sent South, for a certain demand for
"Winslow mills" was developing at the winter as well as the summer
resorts. It was far from winter yet, but this purchaser was
"Hello, Jed," hailed the captain, "busy as usual. You've got the
busy bee a mile astern so far as real hustlin' is concerned."
Jed took a nail from the half dozen held between his lips and
applied its point to the box top. His sentences for the next few
minutes were mumbled between nails and punctuated with blows of the
"The busy bee," he mumbled, "can sting other folks. He don't get
stung much himself. Collectin' honey's easier, I cal'late, than
Captain Sam grunted. "Are you stung again?" he demanded. "Who did
it this time?"
Jed pointed with the hammer to an envelope lying on a pile of
wooden crows. The captain took up the envelope and inspected its
"'We regret to inform you,' he read aloud, 'that the Funny Novelty
Company of this town went into bankruptcy a month ago.
"Humph!" he sniffed. "That's short and sweet. Owed you somethin',
I presume likely?"
Jed nodded. "Seventeen dollars and three cents," he admitted,
between the remaining nails.
"Sho! Well, if you could get the seventeen dollars you'd throw off
the three cents, wouldn't you?"
"You wouldn't? Why not?"
Jed pried a crookedly driven nail out again and substituted a fresh
"Can't afford to," he drawled. "That's the part I'll probably
"Guess you're right. Who's this John Holway?"
"Eh. . . . Why, when he ordered the mills of me last summer he was
president of the Funny Novelty Company up there to Manchester."
"Good Lord! Well, I admire his nerve. How did you come to sell
these--er--Funny folks, in the first place?"
Mr. Winslow looked surprised.
"Why, they wrote and sent an order," he replied.
"Did, eh? And you didn't think of lookin' 'em up to see whether
they was good for anything or good for nothin'? Just sailed in and
hurried off the stuff, I presume likely?"
Jed nodded. "Why--why, yes, of course," he said. "You see, they
said they wanted it right away."
His friend groaned. "Gracious king!" he exclaimed. "How many
times have I told you to let me look up credits for you when you
get an order from a stranger? Well, there's no use talkin' to you.
Give me this letter. I'll see what I can squeeze out of your Funny
friend. . . . But, say," he added, "I can't stop but a minute, and
I ran in to ask you if you'd changed your mind about rentin' the
old house here. If you have, I believe I've got a good tenant for
Jed looked troubled. He laid down the hammer and took the last
nail from his mouth.
"Now--now, Sam," he began, "you know--"
"Oh, I know you've set your thick head dead against rentin' it at
all, but that's silly, as I've told you a thousand times. The
house is empty and it doesn't do any house good to stay empty.
Course if 'twas anybody but you, Jed Winslow, you'd live in it
yourself instead of campin' out in this shack here."
Jed sat down on the box he had just nailed and, taking one long leg
between his big hands, pulled its knee up until he could have
rested his chin upon it without much inconvenience.
"I know, Sam," he drawled gravely, "but that's the trouble--I ain't
been anybody but me for forty-five years."
The captain smiled, in spite of his impatience. "And you won't be
anybody else for the next forty-five," he said, "I know that. But
all the same, bein' a practical, more or less sane man myself, it
makes me nervous to see a nice, attractive, comfortable little
house standin' idle while the feller that owns it eats and sleeps
in a two-by-four sawmill, so to speak. And, not only that, but
won't let anybody else live in the house, either. I call that a
dog in the manger business, and crazy besides."
The big foot at the end of the long leg swung slowly back and
forth. Mr. Winslow looked absently at the roof.
"DON'T look like that!" snapped Captain Sam. "Come out of it!
Wake up! It always gives me the fidgets to see you settin' gapin'
at nothin'. What are you daydreamin' about now, eh?"
Jed turned and gazed over his spectacles.
"I was thinkin'," he observed, "that most likely that dog himself
was crazy. If he wasn't he wouldn't have got into the manger. I
never saw a dog that wanted to climb into a manger, did you, Sam?"
"Oh, confound the manger and the dog, too! Look here, Jed; if I
found you a good tenant would you rent 'em that house of yours?"
Jed looked more troubled than ever.
"Sam," he began, "you know I'd do 'most anything to oblige you,
"Oblige me! This ain't to oblige me. It's to oblige you."
"Oh, then I won't do it."
"Well, then, 'tis to oblige me. It'll oblige me to have you show
some sense. Come on, Jed. These people I've got in mind are nice
people. They want to find a little house and they've come to me at
the bank for advice about findin' it. It's a chance for you, a
Jed rocked back and forth. He looked genuinely worried.
"Who are they?" he asked, after a moment
"Can't name any names yet."
Another period of reflection. Then: "City folks or Orham folks?"
inquired Mr. Winslow.
Some of the worried look disappeared. Jed was plainly relieved and
"Oh, then they won't want it," he declared. "City folks want to
hire houses in the spring, not along as late in the summer as
"These people do. They're thinkin' of livin' here in Orham all the
year round. It's a first-rate chance for you, Jed. Course, I know
you don't really need the money, perhaps, but--well, to be real
honest, I want these folks to stay in Orham--they're the kind of
folks the town needs--and I want 'em contented. I think they would
be contented in your house. You let those Davidsons from Chicago
have the place that summer, but you've never let anybody so much as
consider it since. What's the real reason? You've told me as much
as a dozen, but I'll bet anything you've never told me the real
one. 'Twas somethin' the Davidsons did you didn't like--but what?"
Jed's rocking back and forth on the box became almost energetic and
his troubled expression more than ever apparent.
"Now--now, Sam," he begged, "I've told you all about that ever and
ever so many times. There wasn't anything, really."
"There was, too. What was it?"
Jed suffered in silence for two or three minutes.
"What was the real reason? Out with it," persisted Captain
"Well--well, 'twas--'twas--" desperately, "'twas the squeakin' and--
"Squeakin' and squealin'? Gracious king! What are you talkin'
"Why--the--the mills, you know. The mills and vanes outside on--on
the posts and the fence. They squeaked and--and sometimes they
squealed awful. And he didn't like it."
"Colonel Davidson. He said they'd got to stop makin' that noise
and I said I'd oil 'em every day. And--and I forgot it."
"Yes--well, I ain't surprised to death, exactly. What then?"
"Well--well, you see, they were squealin' worse than usual one
mornin' and Colonel Davidson he came in here and--and I remembered
I hadn't oiled 'em for three days. And I--I said how horrible the
squealin' was and that I'd oil 'em right away and--and--"
"Well, go on! go on!"
"And when I went out to do it there wasn't any wind and the mills
wasn't goin' at all. You see, 'twas his oldest daughter takin' her
singin' lessons in the house with the window open."
Captain Sam put back his head and shouted. Jed looked sadly at the
floor. When the captain could speak he asked:
"And you mean to tell me that was the reason you wouldn't let the
"I know better. You didn't have any row with the Davidsons. You
couldn't row with anybody, anyhow; and besides the Colonel himself
told me they would have taken the house the very next summer but
you wouldn't rent it to 'em. And you mean to say that yarn you've
just spun was the reason?"
"Rubbish! You've told me a dozen reasons afore, but I'm bound to
say this is the most foolish yet. All right, keep the real reason
to yourself, then. But I tell you what I'm goin' to do to get even
with you: I'm goin' to send these folks down to look at your house
and I shan't tell you who they are or when they're comin'."
The knee slipped down from Mr. Winslow's grasp and his foot struck
the floor with a crash. He made a frantic clutch at his friend's
"Oh, now, Sam," he cried, in horror, "don't do that! Don't talk
so! You don't mean it! Come here! . . . Sam!"
But the captain was at the door. "You bet I mean it!" he declared.
"Keep your weather eye peeled, Jed. They'll be comin' 'most any
time now. And if you have ANY sense you'll let 'em the house. So
He drove away in his little car. Jed Winslow, left standing in the
shop doorway, staring after him, groaned in anxious foreboding.
He groaned a good many times during the next few hours. Each time
the bell rang announcing the arrival of a visitor he rose to answer
it perfectly sure that here were the would-be tenants whom his
friend, in the mistaken kindness of his heart, was sending to him.
Not that he had the slightest idea of renting his old home, but he
dreaded the ordeal of refusing. In fact he was not sure that he
could refuse, not sure that he could invent a believable excuse for
doing so. Another person would not have sought excuses, would have
declared simply that the property was not for rent, but Jed Winslow
was not that other person; he was himself, and ordinary methods of
procedure were not his.
Two or three groups of customers came in, purchased and departed.
Captain Jerry Burgess dropped in to bring the Winslow mail, which
in this case consisted of an order, a bill and a circular setting
forth the transcendent healing qualities of African Balm, the Foe
of Rheumatism. Mr. Bearse happened in to discuss the great news of
the proposed aviation camp and to tell with gusto and detail how
Phineas Babbitt had met Captain Hunniwell "right square in front of
the bank" and had not spoken to him. "No, sir, never said a word
to him no more'n if he wan't there. What do you think of that?
And they say Leander wrote his dad that he thought he was goin' to
like soldierin' fust-rate, and Mrs. Sarah Mary Babbitt she told
Melissa Busteed that her husband's language when he read that was
somethin' sinful. She said she never was more thankful that they
had lightnin' rods on the roof, 'cause such talk as that was enough
to fetch down fire from heaven."
It was nearly noon when Jed, entering the front shop in answer to
the bell, found there the couple the sight of which caused his
heart to sink. Here they were, the house hunters--there was no
doubt of it in his mind. The man was short and broad and
protuberant and pompous. The woman possessed all the last three
qualities, besides being tall. He shone with prosperity and
sunburn, she reeked of riches and talcum. They were just the sort
of people who would insist upon hiring a house that was not in the
market; its not being in the market would, in their eyes, make it
all the more desirable.
Jed had seen them before, knew they were staying at the hotel and
that their names were Powless. He remembered now, with a thrill of
alarm, that Mr. Bearse had recently spoken of them as liking Orham
very much and considering getting a place of their own. And of
course Captain Sam, hearing this, had told them of the Winslow
place, had sent them to him. "Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!" thought Jed,
although what he said was: "Good mornin'."
He might as well have said nothing. Mrs. Powless, looming large
between the piles of mills and vanes, like a battleship in a narrow
channel, was loftily inspecting the stock through her lorgnette.
Her husband, his walking stick under his arm and his hands in his
pockets, was not even making the pretense of being interested; he
was staring through the seaward window toward the yard and the old
"These are really quite extraordinary," the lady announced, after a
moment. "George, you really should see these extraordinary
George was, evidently, not interested. He continued to look out of
"What are they?" he asked, without turning.
"Oh, I don't know. All sorts of queer dolls and boats--and
creatures, made of wood. Like those outside, you know--er--
teetotums, windmills. Do come and look at them."
Mr. Powless did not comply. He said "Umph" and that was all.
"George," repeated Mrs. Powless, "do you hear me? Come and look at
And George came. One might have inferred that, when his wife spoke
like that, he usually came. He treated a wooden porpoise to a
thoroughly wooden stare and repeated his remark of "Umph!"
"Aren't they extraordinary!" exclaimed his wife. "Does this man
make them himself, I wonder?"
She seemed to be addressing her husband, so Jed did not answer.
"Do you?" demanded Mr. Powless.
"Yes," replied Jed.
Mrs. Powless said "Fancy!" Mr. Powless strolled back to the
"This view is all right, Mollie," he observed. "Better even than
it is from the street. Come and see."
Mrs. Powless went and saw. Jed stood still and stared miserably.
"Rather attractive, on the whole, don't you think, dear?" inquired
the gentleman. "Must be very decent in the yard there."
The lady did not reply, but she opened the door and went out,
around the corner of the shop and into the back yard. Her husband
trotted after her. The owner of the property, gazing pathetically
through the window, saw them wandering about the premises, looking
off at the view, up into the trees, and finally trying the door of
the old house and peeping in between the slats of the closed
blinds. Then they came strolling back to the shop. Jed, drawing a
long breath, prepared to face the ordeal.
Mrs. Powless entered the shop. Mr. Powless remained by the door.
He spoke first.
"You own all this?" he asked, indicating the surrounding country
with a wave of his cane. Jed nodded.
"That house, too?" waving the point of the cane toward the Winslow
"How old is it?"
Jed stammered that he guessed likely it was about a hundred years
old or such matter.
"Umph! Furniture old, too?"
"Yes, I cal'late most of it is."
"Nobody living in it?"
"Got the key to it?"
Here was the question direct. If he answered in the affirmative
the next utterance of the Powless man would be a command to be
shown the interior of the house. Jed was certain of it, he could
see it in the man's eye. What was infinitely more important, he
could see it in the lady's eye. He hesitated.
"Got the key to it?" repeated Mr. Powless.
"No-o," he faltered, "I--I guess not."
"You GUESS not. Don't you know whether you've got it or not?"
"No. I mean yes. I know I ain't."
"Where is it; lost?"
The key was usually lost, that is to say, Jed was accustomed to
hunt for fifteen minutes before finding it, so, his conscience
backing his inclination, he replied that he cal'lated it must be.
"Umph!" grunted Powless. "How do you get into the house without a
Jed rubbed his chin, swallowed hard, and drawled that he didn't
"You do sometimes, don't you?"
The best answer that the harassed windmill maker could summon was
that he didn't know. The red-faced gentleman stared at him in
"You don't KNOW?" he repeated. "Which don't you know, whether you
go into the house at all, or how you get in without a key?"
Mr. Powless breathed deeply. "Well, I'll be damned!" he declared,
His wife did not contradict his assertion, but she made one of her
"George," she commanded majestically, "can't you see the man has
been drinking. Probably he doesn't own the place at all. Don't
waste another moment on him. We will come back later, when the
real owner is in. Come!"
George came and they both went. Mr. Winslow wiped his perspiring
forehead on a piece of wrapping paper and sat down upon a box to
recover. Recovery, however, was by no means rapid or complete.
They had gone, but they were coming back again; and what should he
say to them then? Very likely Captain Sam, who had sent them in
the first place, would return with them. And Captain Sam knew that
the key was not really lost. Jed's satisfaction in the fact that
he had escaped tenantless so far was nullified by the fear that his
freedom was but temporary.
He cooked his dinner, but ate little. After washing the dishes he
crossed the road to the telephone and telegraph office and called
up the Orham Bank. He meant to get Captain Hunniwell on the wire,
tell him that the house hunters had paid him a visit, that he did
not like them, and beg the captain to call them off the scent. But
Captain Sam had motored to Ostable to attend a preliminary session
of the Exemption Board. Jed sauntered gloomily back to the shop.
When he opened the door and entered he was greeted by a familiar
voice, which said:
"Here he is, Mamma. Good afternoon, Mr. Winslow."
Jed started, turned, and found Miss Barbara Armstrong beaming up at
him. The young lady's attire and general appearance were in marked
contrast to those of the previous evening. Petunia also was in
calling costume; save for the trifling lack of one eye and a chip
from the end of her nose, she would have been an ornament to doll
"This is my mamma," announced Barbara. "She's come to see you."
"How do you do, Mr. Winslow?" said Mrs. Armstrong.
Jed looked up to find her standing beside him, her hand extended.
Beside a general impression that she was young and that her gown
and hat and shoes were white, he was at that moment too greatly
embarrassed to notice much concerning her appearance. Probably he
did not notice even this until later. However, he took her hand,
moved it up and down, dropped it again and said: "I--I'm pleased to
meet you, ma'am."
She smiled. "And I am very glad to meet you," she said. "It was
very kind of you to bring my little girl home last night and she
and I have come to thank you for doing it."
Jed was more embarrassed than ever.
"Sho, sho!" he protested; "'twasn't anything."
"Oh, yes, it was; it was a great deal. I was getting very worried,
almost frightened. She had been gone ever since luncheon--dinner,
I mean--and I had no idea where. She's a pretty good little girl,
generally speaking," drawing the child close and smiling down upon
her, "but sometimes she is heedless and forgets. Yesterday she
forgot, didn't you, dear?"
Barbara shook her head.
"I didn't forget," she said. "I mean I only forgot a little.
Petunia forgot almost EVERYTHING. I forgot and went as far as the
bridge, but she forgot all the way to the clam field."
Jed rubbed his chin.
"The which field?" he drawled.
"The clam field. The place where Mrs. Smalley's fish man unplants
the clams she makes the chowder of. He does it with a sort of hoe
thing and puts them in a pail. He was doing it yesterday; I saw
Jed's eyes twinkled at the word "unplants," but another thought
occurred to him.
"You wasn't out on those clam flats alone, was you?" he asked,
She nodded. "Petunia and I went all alone," she said. "It was
kind of wet so we took off our shoes and stockings and paddled.
I--I don't know's I remembered to tell you that part, Mamma," she
added, hastily. "I--I guess it must have slipped my mind."
But Mrs. Armstrong was watching Jed's face.
"Was there any danger?" she asked, quickly.
Jed hesitated before answering. "Why," he drawled, "I--I don't
know as there was, but--well, the tide comes in kind of slow off ON
the flats, but it's liable to fill up the channels between them and
the beach some faster. Course if you know the wadin' places it's
all right, but if you don't it's--well, it's sort of uncomfortable,
The lady's cheeks paled a bit, but she did not exclaim, nor as Jed
would have said "make a fuss." She said, simply, "Thank you, I
will remember," and that was the only reference she made to the
subject of the "clam field."
Miss Barbara, to whom the events of dead yesterdays were of no
particular concern compared to those of the vital and living to-
day, was rummaging among the stock.
"Mamma," she cried, excitedly, "here is a whale fish like the one I
was going to buy for Captain Hedge. Come and see it."
Mrs. Armstrong came and was much interested. She asked Jed
questions concerning the "whale fish" and others of his creations.
At first his replies were brief and monosyllabic, but gradually
they became more lengthy, until, without being aware of it, he was
carrying on his share of a real conversation. Of course, he
hesitated and paused and drawled, but he always did that, even when
talking with Captain Sam Hunniwell.
He took down and exhibited his wares one by one. Barbara asked
numberless questions concerning each and chattered like a red
squirrel. Her mother showed such a genuine interest in his work
and was so pleasant and quiet and friendly, was, in short, such a
marked contrast to Mrs. George Powless, that he found himself
actually beginning to enjoy the visit. Usually he was glad when
summer folks finished their looking and buying and went away; but
now, when Mrs. Armstrong glanced at the clock on the shelf, he was
secretly glad that that clock had not gone for over four months and
had providentially stopped going at a quarter after three.
He took them into the inner shop, his workroom, and showed them the
band saw and the lathe and the rest of his manufacturing outfit.
Barbara asked if he lived there all alone and he said he did.
"I live out there," he explained, pointing toward the shop
extension. "Got a sittin'-room and a kitchen out there, and a
little upstairs, where I sleep."
Mrs. Armstrong seemed surprised. "Why!" she exclaimed, "I thought
you lived in that dear little old house next door here. I was told
that you owned it."
Jed nodded. "Yes, ma'am," he said, "I do own it, but I don't live
in it. I used to live there, but I ain't for quite a spell now."
"I don't see how you could bear to give it up. It looks so quaint
and homey, and if the inside is as delightful as the outside it
must be quite wonderful. And the view is the best in town, isn't
Jed was pleased. "Why, yes, ma'am, 'tis pretty good," he admitted.
"Anyhow, most folks seem to cal'late 'tis. Wouldn't you like to
come out and look at it?"
Barbara clapped her hands. "Oh, yes, Mamma, do!" she cried.
Her mother hesitated. "I don't know that we ought to trouble Mr.
Winslow," she said. "He is busy, you know."
Jed protested. "It won't be a mite of trouble," he declared.
"Besides, it ain't healthy to work too long at a stretch. That
is," he drawled, "folks say 'tain't, so I never take the risk."
Mrs. Armstrong smiled and followed him out into the yard, where
Miss Barbara had already preceded them. The view over the edge of
the bluff was glorious and the grass in the yard was green, the
flowers bright and pretty and the shadows of the tall lilac bushes
by the back door of the little white house cool and inviting.
Barbara danced along the bluff edge, looking down at the dories and
nets on the beach below. Her mother sighed softly.
"It is lovely!" she said. Then, turning to look at the little
house, she added, "And it was your old home, I suppose."
Jed nodded. "Yes, ma'am," he replied. "I was born in that house
and lived there all my life up to five years ago."
"And then you gave it up. Why? . . . Please forgive me. I didn't
mean to be curious."
"Oh, that's all right, ma'am. Nothin' secret about it. My mother
died and I didn't seem to care about livin' there alone, that's
"I see. I understand."
She looked as if she did understand, and Jed, the seldom
understood, experienced an unusual pleasure. The sensation
produced an unusual result.
"It's a kind of cute and old-fashioned house inside," he observed.
"Maybe you'd like to go in and look around; would you?"
She looked very much pleased. "Oh, I should, indeed!" she
exclaimed. "May I?"
Now, the moment after he issued the invitation he was sorry. It
had been quite unpremeditated and had been given he could not have
told why. His visitor had seemed so genuinely interested, and,
above all, had treated him like a rational human being instead of a
freak. Under this unaccustomed treatment Jed Winslow had been
caught off his guard--hypnotized, so to speak. And now, when it
was too late, he realized the possible danger. Only a few hours
ago he had told Mr. and Mrs. George Powless that the key to that
house had been lost.
He paused and hesitated. Mrs. Armstrong noticed his hesitation.
"Please don't think any more about it," she said. "It is
delightful here in the yard. Babbie and I will stay here a few
minutes, if we may, and you must go back to your work, Mr.
But Jed, having put his foot in it, was ashamed to withdraw. He
hastened to disclaim any intention of withdrawal.
"No, no," he protested. "I don't need to go to work, not yet
anyhow. I should be real pleased to show you the house, ma'am.
You wait now and I'll fetch the key."
Some five minutes later he reappeared with triumph in his eye and
the "lost" key in his hand.
"Sorry to keep you waitin', ma'am," he explained. "The key had--
er--stole its nest, as you might say. Got it now, though."
His visitors looked at the key, which was attached by a cord to a
slab of wood about the size of half a shingle. Upon one side of
the slab were lettered in black paint the words HERE IT IS.
Barbara's curiosity was aroused.
"What have you got those letters on there for, Mr. Winslow?" she
asked. "What does it say?"
Jed solemnly read the inscription. "I printed that on there," he
explained, "so I'd be able to find the key when I wanted it."
Mrs. Armstrong smiled. "I should think it might help," she
observed, evidently much amused.
Mr. Winslow nodded. "You would think so," he said, "wouldn't you?
Maybe 'twould, too, only 'twas such a plaguey nuisance, towin' that
half a cord of wood around, that I left it to home last time.
Untied the string, you know, and just took the key. The wood and
the string was hangin' up in the right place, but the key wan't
among those present, as they say in the newspapers."
"Where was it?" demanded Barbara.
"Hush, dear," cautioned her mother. "You mustn't ask so many
"That's all right, ma'am; I don't mind a mite. Where was it?
We-ll, 'twas in my pants pocket here, just where I put it last
time I used it. Naturally enough I shouldn't have thought of
lookin' there and I don't know's I'd have found it yet, but I
happened to shove my hands in my pockets to help me think, and
This explanation should have been satisfying, doubtless, but
Barbara did not seem to find it wholly so.
"Please may I ask one more question, Mamma?" she pleaded. "Just
She asked it before her mother could reply.
"How does putting your hands in your pockets help you think, Mr.
Winslow?" she asked. "I don't see how it would help a bit?"
Jed's eye twinkled, but his reply was solemnly given.
"Why, you see," he drawled, "I'm built a good deal like the old
steam launch Tobias Wixon used to own. Every time Tobias blew the
whistle it used up all the steam and the engine stopped. I've got
a head about like that engine; when I want to use it I have to give
all the rest of me a layoff. . . . Here we are, ma'am. Walk right
in, won't you."
He showed them through room after room of the little house, opening
the closed shutters so that the afternoon sunlight might stream in
and brighten their progress. The rooms were small, but they were
attractive and cosy. The furniture was almost all old mahogany and
in remarkably good condition. The rugs were home-made; even the
coverlets of the beds were of the old-fashioned blue and white,
woven on the hand looms of our great-grandmothers. Mrs. Armstrong
"It is like a miniature museum of antiques," she declared. "And
such wonderful antiques, too. You must have been besieged by
people who wanted to buy them."
Jed nodded. "Ye-es," he admitted, "I cal'late there's been no
less'n a million antiquers here in the last four or five year. I
don't mean here in the house--I never let 'em in the house--but
'round the premises. Got so they kind of swarmed first of every
summer, like June bugs. I got rid of 'em, though, for a spell."
"Did you; how?"
He rubbed his chin. "Put up a sign by the front door that said:
'Beware of Leprosy.' That kept 'em away while it lasted."
Mrs. Armstrong laughed merrily. "I should think so," she said.
"But why leprosy, pray?"
"Oh, I was goin' to make it smallpox, but I asked Doctor Parker if
there was anything worse than smallpox and he said he cal'lated
leprosy was about as bad as any disease goin'. It worked fine
while it lasted, but the Board of Health made me take it down; said
there wan't any leprosy on the premises. I told 'em no, but 'twas
a good idea to beware of it anyhow, and I'd put up the sign just on
general principles. No use; they hadn't much use for principles,
general or otherwise, seemed so."
The lady commented on the neatness and order in the little rooms.
They were in marked contrast to the workshop. "I suppose you have
a woman come here to clean and sweep," she said.
Jed shook his head.
"No-o," he answered. "I generally cal'late to come in every little
while and clean up. Mother was always a great one for keepin'
things slicked up," he added, apologetically, "and I--I kind of
like to think 'twould please her. Foolish, I presume likely, but--
well, foolish things seem to come natural to me. Got a kind of a
gift for 'em, as you might say. I . . ."
He lapsed into silence, his sentence only begun. Mrs. Armstrong,
looking up, found him gazing at her with the absent, far-off look
that his closest associates knew so well. She had not met it
before and found it rather embarrassing, especially as it kept on
"Well?" she asked, after a time. He started and awoke to
"I was just thinkin'," he explained, "that you was the only woman
that has been in this house since the summer I let it to the
Davidson folks. And Mrs. Davidson wan't a mite like you."
That was true enough. Mrs. Davidson had been a plump elderly
matron with gray hair, a rather rasping voice and a somewhat
aggressive manner. Mrs. Armstrong was young and slim, her hair and
eyes were dark, her manner refined and her voice low and gentle.
And, if Jed had been in the habit of noticing such things, he might
have noticed that she was pleasant to look at. Perhaps he was
conscious of this fact, but, if so, it was only in a vague, general
His gaze wandered to Barbara, who, with Petunia, was curled up in a
big old-fashioned rocker.
"And a child, too," he mused. "I don't know when there's been a
child in here. Not since I was one, I guess likely, and that's too
long ago for anybody to remember single-handed."
But Mrs. Armstrong was interested in his previous remark.
"You have let others occupy this house then?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am, one summer I did. Let it furnished to some folks name
of Davidson, from Chicago."
"And you haven't rented it since?"
"No, ma'am, not but that once."
She was silent for a moment. Then she said: "I am surprised that
it hasn't been occupied always. Do you ask such a VERY high rent,
Jed looked doubtful. "Why, no, ma'am," he answered. "I didn't
cal'late 'twas so very high, considerin' that 'twas just for
'summer and furnished and all. The Davidsons paid forty dollars a
"FORTY dollars! A month? And furnished like that? You mean a
week, don't you?"
Mr. Winslow looked at her. The slow smile wandered across his
face. He evidently suspected a joke.
"Why, no, ma'am," he drawled. "You see, they was rentin' the
place, not buyin' it."
"But forty dollars a month is VERY cheap."
"Is it? Sho! Now you speak of it I remember that Captain Sam
seemed to cal'late 'twas. He said I ought to have asked a hundred,
or some such foolishness. I told him he must have the notion that
I was left out of the sweet ile when they pickled the other thirty-
nine thieves. Perhaps you've read the story, ma'am," he suggested.
His visitor laughed. "I have read it," she said. Then she added,
plainly more to herself than to him: "But even forty is far too
much, of course."
Jed was surprised and a little hurt.
"Yes--er--yes, ma'am," he faltered. "Well, I--I was kind of 'fraid
'twas, but Colonel Davidson seemed to think 'twas about fair, so--"
"Oh, you misunderstand me. I didn't mean that forty dollars was
too high a rent. It isn't, it is a very low one. I meant that it
was more than I ought to think of paying. You see, Mr. Winslow, I
have been thinking that we might live here in Orham, Barbara and I.
I like the town; and the people, most of those I have met, have
been very pleasant and kind. And it is necessary--that is, it
seems to me preferable--that we live, for some years at least, away
from the city. This little house of yours is perfect. I fell in
love with the outside of it at first sight. Now I find the inside
even more delightful. I"--she hesitated, and then added--"I don't
suppose you would care to let it unfurnished at--at a lower rate?"
Jed was very much embarrassed. The idea that his caller would make
such a proposition as this had not occurred to him for a moment.
If it had the lost key would almost certainly have remained lost.
He liked Mrs. Armstrong even on such short acquaintance, and he had
taken a real fancy to Barbara; but his prejudice against tenants
remained. He rubbed his chin.
"Why--why, now, ma'am," he stammered, "you--you wouldn't like
livin' in Orham all the year 'round, would you?"
"I hope I should. I know I should like it better than living--
elsewhere," with, so it seemed to him, a little shudder. "And I
cannot afford to live otherwise than very simply anywhere. I have
been boarding in Orham for almost three months now and I feel that
I have given it a trial."
"Yes--yes, ma'am, but summer's considerable more lively than winter
here on the Cape."
"I have no desire for society. I expect to be quiet and I wish to
be. Mr. Winslow, would you consider letting me occupy this house--
unfurnished, of course? I should dearly love to take it just as it
is--this furniture is far more fitting for it than mine--but I
cannot afford forty dollars a month. Provided you were willing to
let me hire the house of you at all, not for the summer alone but
for all the year, what rent do you think you should charge?"
Jed's embarrassment increased. "Well, now, ma'am," he faltered,
"I--I hope you won't mind my sayin' it, but--but I don't know's I
want to let this house at all. I--I've had consider'ble many
chances to rent it, but--but--"
He could not seem to find a satisfactory ending to the sentence and
so left it unfinished. Mrs. Armstrong was evidently much
disappointed, but she did not give up completely.
"I see," she said. "Well, in a way I think I understand. You
prefer the privacy. I think I could promise you that Barbara and I
would disturb you very little. As to the rent, that would be paid
"Sartin, ma'am, sartin; I know 'twould, but--"
"Won't you think it over? We might even live here for a month,
with your furniture undisturbed and at the regular rental. You
could call it a trial month, if you liked. You could see how you
liked us, you know. At the end of that time," with a smile, "you
might tell us we wouldn't do at all, or, perhaps, then you might
consider making a more permanent arrangement. Barbara would like
it here, wouldn't you, dear?"
Barbara, who had been listening, nodded excitedly from the big
rocker. "Ever and ever so much," she declared; "and Petunia would
just adore it."
Poor Jed was greatly perturbed. "Don't talk so, Mrs. Armstrong,"
he blurted. "Please don't. I--I don't want you to. You--you make
me feel bad."
"Do I? I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to say anything to hurt your
feelings. I beg your pardon."
"No, you don't. I--I mean you hadn't ought to. You don't hurt my
feelin's; I mean you make me feel bad--wicked--cussed mean--all
that and some more. I know I ought to let you have this house.
Any common, decent man with common decent feelin's and sense would
let you have it. But, you see, I ain't that kind. I--I'm selfish
and--and wicked and--" He waved a big hand in desperation.
She laughed. "Nonsense!" she exclaimed. "Besides, it isn't so
desperate as all that. You certainly are not obliged to rent the
house unless you want to."
"But I do want to; that is, I don't, but I know I'd ought to want
to. And if I was goin' to let anybody have it I'd rather 'twould
be you--honest, I would. And it's the right thing for me to do, I
know that. That's what bothers me; the trouble's with ME. I don't
want to do the right thing." He broke off, seemed to reflect and
then asked suddenly:
"Ma'am, do you want to go to heaven when you die?"
The lady was naturally somewhat surprised at the question. "Why,
yes," she replied, "I-- Why, of course I do."
"There, that's it! Any decent, sensible person would. But I don't."
Barbara, startled into forgetting that children should be seen and
not heard, uttered a shocked "Oh!"
Jed waved his hand. "You see," he said, "even that child's morals
are upset by me. I know I ought to want to go to heaven. But when
I see the crowd that KNOW they're goin' there, are sartin of it,
the ones from this town, a good many of 'em anyhow; when I hear how
they talk in prayer-meetin' and then see how they act outside of
it, I-- Well," with a deep sigh, "I want to go where they ain't,
that's all." He paused, and then drawled solemnly, but with a
suspicion of the twinkle in his eye: "The general opinion seems to
be that that's where I'll go, so's I don't know's I need to worry."
Mrs. Armstrong made no comment on this confession. He did not seem
to expect any.
"Ma'am," he continued, "you see what I mean. The trouble's with
me, I ain't made right. I ought to let that house; Sam Hunniwell
told me so this mornin'. But I--I don't want to. Nothin' personal
to you, you understand; but . . . Eh? Who's that?"
A step sounded on the walk outside and voices were heard. Jed
turned to the door.
"Customers, I cal'late," he said. "Make yourselves right to home,
ma'am, you and the little girl. I'll be right back."
He went out through the dining-room into the little hall. Barbara,
in the big rocker, looked up over Petunia's head at her mother.
"Isn't he a funny man, Mamma?" she said.
Mrs. Armstrong nodded. "Yes, he certainly is," she admitted.
"Yes," the child nodded reflectively. "But I don't believe he's
wicked at all. I believe he's real nice, don't you?"
"I'm sure he is, dear."
"Yes. Petunia and I like him. I think he's what you said our
Bridget was, a rough damson."
"Not damson; diamond, dear."
"Oh, yes. It was damson preserve Mrs. Smalley had for supper last
night. I forgot. Petunia told me to say damson; she makes so many
They heard the "rough diamond" returning. He seemed to be in a
hurry. When he re-entered the little sitting-room he looked very
"What is the matter?" demanded Mrs. Armstrong.
"They've come back," he whispered. "Godfreys, I forgot 'em, and
they've come back. WHAT'LL I do now?"
"But who--who has come back?"
Mr. Winslow waved both hands.
"The Old Scratch and his wife," he declared. "I hope they didn't
see me, but--Land of love, they're comin' in!"
A majestic tread sounded in the hall, in the dining-room. Mrs.
George Powless appeared, severe, overwhelming, with Mr. George
Powless in her wake. The former saw Mr. Winslow and fixed him with
her glittering eye, as the Ancient Mariner fixed the wedding guest.
"Ah!" she observed, with majestic irony, "the lost key is found, it
Jed looked guilty.
"Yes, ma'am," he faltered. "Er--yes, ma'am."
"So? And now, I presume, as it is apparent that you do show the
interior of this house to other interested persons," with a glance
like a sharpened icicle in the direction of the Armstrongs,
"perhaps you will show it to my husband and me."
Jed swallowed hard.
"Well, ma'am," he faltered, "I--I'd like to, but--but the fact is,
"It ain't my house."
"Isn't your house? George," turning to Mr. Powless, "didn't I hear
this man distinctly tell you that this house WAS his?"
George nodded. "Certainly, my dear," he declared. Then turning to
Mr. Winslow, he demanded: "What do you mean by saying it is yours
one moment and not yours the next; eh?"
Jed looked around. For one instant his gaze rested upon the face
of Mrs. Armstrong. Then he drew himself up.
"Because," he declared, "I've rented it furnished to this lady
here. And, that bein' the case, it ain't mine just now and I ain't
got any right to be in it. And," his voice rising in desperation,
"neither has anybody else."
Mrs. George Powless went a few moments later; before she went she
expressed her opinion of Mr. Winslow's behavior. Mr. George
Powless followed her, expressing his opinion as he went. The
object of their adjuration sat down upon a rush-bottomed chair and
rubbed his chin.
"Lord!" he exclaimed, with fervor. Mrs. Armstrong looked at him in
"Why, Mr. Winslow!" she exclaimed, and burst out laughing.
Jed groaned. "I know how Jonah felt after the whale unloaded him,"
he drawled. "That woman all but had me swallered. If you hadn't
been here she would."
"Jed!" shouted a voice outside. "Jed, where are you?"
Mr. Winslow raised his head. "Eh?" he queried. "That's Sam
hollerin', ain't it?"
It was Captain Hunniwell and a moment later he entered the little
sitting-room. When he saw who his friend's companions were he
seemed greatly surprised.
"Why, Mrs. Armstrong!" he exclaimed. "Are you here? Now that's a
funny thing. The last time I saw Jed I warned him I was goin' to
send you here to look at this house. And you came without bein'
sent, after all; eh?"
Jed stared at him. Before the lady could reply he spoke. "What?"
he cried. "Was she--Sam Hunniwell, was it HER you was goin' to
send to see about hirin' this house?"
"Sure it was. Why not?"
Jed pointed toward the door. "Then--then who," he demanded, "sent
those Powlesses here?"
"No one that I know of. And anyhow they don't want to rent any
houses. They've bought land over at Harnissport and they're goin'
to build a house of their own there."
"They are? They are? Then--then WHAT did that woman say I'd got
to show her the inside of this house for?"
"I don't know. Did she? Oh, I tell you what she was after,
probably. Some one had told her about your old furniture and
things, Jed. She's the greatest antique hunter on earth, so they
tell me. That's what she was after--antiques."
Jed, having paused until this had sunk in, groaned.
"Lord!" he said, again. "And I went and--"
Another groan finished the sentence.
Mrs. Armstrong came forward.
"Please don't worry about it, Mr. Winslow," she said. "I know you
didn't mean it. Of course, knowing your feelings, I shouldn't
think of taking the house."
But Jed slowly shook his head.
"I want you to," he declared. "Yes, I mean it. I want you to come
and live in this house for a month, anyhow. If you don't, that
Powless woman will come back and buy every stick and rag on the
place. I don't want to sell 'em, but I couldn't say no to her any
more than I could to the Old Harry. I called her the Old Scratch's
wife, didn't I," he added. "Well, I won't take it back."
Captain Sam laughed uproariously.
"You ain't very complimentary to Mr. Powless," he observed.
Jed rubbed his chin.
"I would be if I was referrin' to him," he drawled, "but I judge
he's her second husband."
Of course Mrs. Armstrong still insisted that, knowing, as she did,
Mr. Winslow's prejudice against occupying the position of landlord,
she could not think of accepting his offer. "Of course I shall
not," she declared. "I am flattered to know that you consider
Barbara and me preferable to Mr. and Mrs. Powless; but even there
you may be mistaken, and, beside, why should you feel you must
endure the lesser evil. If I were in your place I shouldn't endure
any evil at all. I should keep the house closed and empty, just as
you have been doing."
Captain Sam shook his head impatiently. "If you was in his place,"
he observed, "you would have let it every year. Don't interfere
with him, Mrs. Armstrong, for the land sakes. He's showed the
first streak of common sense about that house that he's showed
since the Davidsons went out. Don't ask him to take it back."
And Jed stubbornly refused to take it back. "I've let it to you
for a month, ma'am," he insisted. "It's yours, furniture and all,
for a month. You won't sell that Mrs. Powless any of it, will
you?" he added, anxiously. "Any of the furniture, I mean."
Mrs. Armstrong scarcely knew whether to be amused or indignant.
"Of course I shouldn't sell it," she declared. "It wouldn't be
mine to sell."
Jed looked frightened. "Yes, 'twould; yes, 'twould," he persisted.
"That's why I'm lettin' it to you. Then I can't sell it to her; I
CAN'T, don't you see?"
Captain Sam grinned. "Fur's that goes," he suggested, "I don't
see's you've got to worry, Jed. You don't need to sell it, to her
or anybody else, unless you want to."
But Jed looked dubious. "I suppose Jonah cal'lated he didn't need
to be swallowed," he mused. "You take it, ma'am, for a month, as a
favor to me."
"But how can I--like this? We haven't even settled the question of
rent. And you know nothing whatever about me."
He seemed to reflect. Then he asked:
"Your daughter don't sing like a windmill, does she?"
Barbara's eyes and mouth opened. "Why, Mamma!" she exclaimed,
"Hush, Babbie. Sing like a--what? I don't understand, Mr.
The captain burst out laughing. "No wonder you don't, ma'am," he
said. "It takes the seven wise men of Greece to understand him
most of the time. You leave it to me, Mrs. Armstrong. He and I
will talk it over together and then you and he can talk to-morrow.
But I guess likely you'll have the house, if you want it; Jed
doesn't go back on his word. I always say that for you, don't I,
old sawdust?" turning to the gentleman thus nicknamed.
Jed, humming a mournful hymn, was apparently miles away in
dreamland. Yet he returned to earth long enough to indulge in a
mild bit of repartee. "You say 'most everything for me, Sam," he
drawled, "except when I talk in my sleep."
Mrs. Armstrong and Barbara left a moment later, the lady saying
that she and Mr. Winslow would have another interview next day.
Barbara gravely shook hands with both men.
"I and Petunia hope awfully that we are going to live here, Mr.
Winslow," she said, "'specially Petunia."
Jed regarded her gravely. "Oh, she wants to more'n you do, then,
does she?" he asked.
The child looked doubtful. "No-o," she admitted, after a moment's
reflection, "but she can't talk, you know, and so she has to hope
twice as hard else I wouldn't know it. Good-by. Oh, I forgot;
Captain Hedge liked his swordfish EVER so much. He said it was a--
a--oh, yes, humdinger."
She trotted off after her mother. Captain Hunniwell, after a
chuckle of appreciation over the "humdinger," began to tell his
friend what little he had learned concerning the Armstrongs. This
was, of course, merely what Mrs. Armstrong herself had told him and
amounted to this: She was a widow whose husband had been a
physician in Middleford, Connecticut. His name was Seymour
Armstrong and he had now been dead four years. Mrs. Armstrong and
Barbara, the latter an only child, had continued to occupy the
house at Middleford, but recently the lady had come to feel that
she could not afford to live there longer, but must find some less
"She didn't say so," volunteered Captain Sam, "but I judge she lost
a good deal of her money, bad investments or somethin' like that.
If there's any bad investment anywheres in the neighborhood you can
'most generally trust a widow to hunt it up and put her insurance
money into it. Anyhow, 'twas somethin' like that, for after livin'
there a spell, just as she did when her husband was alive, she all
at once decides to up anchor and find some cheaper moorin's. First
off, though, she decided to spend the summer in a cool place and
some friend, somebody with good, sound judgment, suggests Orham.
So she lets her own place in Middleford, comes to Orham, falls in
love with the place--same as any sensible person would naturally,
of course--and, havin' spent 'most three months here, decides she
wants to spend nine more anyhow. She comes to the bank to cash a
check, she and I get talkin', she tells me what she's lookin' for,
I tell her I cal'late I've got a place in my eye that I think might
be just the thing, and--"
He paused to bite the end from a cigar. His friend finished the
sentence for him.
"And then," he said, "you, knowin' that I didn't want to let this
house any time to anybody, naturally sent her down to look at it."
"No such thing. Course I knew that you'd OUGHT to let the house
and, likin' the looks and ways of these Armstrong folks first rate,
I give in that I had made up my mind TO send her down to look at
it. But, afore I could do it, the Almighty sent her on His own
hook. Which proves," he added, with a grin, "that my judgment has
pretty good backin' sometimes."
Jed rubbed his chin. "Careful, Sam," he drawled, "careful. The
Kaiser'll be gettin' jealous of you if you don't look out. But
what," he inquired, "made her and the little girl move out of
Middleford, or wherever 'twas they lived? They could have found
cheaper quarters there, couldn't they? Course I ain't never been
there, but seems as if they could."
"Sartin they could, but the fact of their movin' is what makes me
pretty sure the widow's investments had turned sour. It's a
plaguey sight easier to begin to cut down and live economical in a
place where nobody knows you than 'tis in one where everybody has
known you for years. See that, don't you?"
Jed whistled sadly, breaking off in the middle of a bar to reply
that he didn't know as he did.
"I've never cut up, so cuttin' down don't worry me much," he
observed. "But I presume likely you're right, Sam; you generally
are." He whistled a moment longer, his gaze apparently fixed upon
a point in the middle of the white plastered ceiling. Then he
said, dreamily: "Well, anyhow, 'twon't be but a month. They'll go
somewheres else in a month."
Captain Sam sniffed. "Bet you a dollar they won't," he retorted.
"Not unless you turn 'em out. And I see you turnin' anybody out."
But Mr. Winslow looked hopeful. "They'll go when the month's up,"
he reiterated. "Nobody could stand me more than a month. Mother
used to say so, and she'd known me longer than anybody."
And so, in this curious fashion, did tenants come to the old
Winslow house. They moved in on the following Monday. Jed saw the
wagon with the trunks backing up to the door and he sighed. Then
he went over to help carry the trunks into the house.
For the first week he found the situation rather uncomfortable; not
as uncomfortable as he had feared, but a trifle embarrassing,
nevertheless. His new neighbors were not too neighborly; they did
not do what he would have termed "pester" him by running in and out
of the shop at all hours, nor did they continually ask favors. On
the other hand they did not, like his former tenants, the
Davidsons, treat him as if he were some sort of odd wooden image,
like one of his own weather vanes, a creature without feelings, to
be displayed and "shown off" when it pleased them and ignored when
it did not. Mrs. Armstrong was always quietly cheerful and
friendly when they met in the yard or about the premises, but she
neither intruded nor patronized. Jed's first impression of her, a
favorable one, was strengthened daily.
"I like her first-rate," he told Captain Sam. "She ain't too
folksy and she ain't too standoffish. Why, honest truth, Sam," he
added, ingenuously, "she treats me just the same as if I was like
the common run of folks."
The captain snorted. "Gracious king! Do stop runnin' yourself
down," he commanded. "Suppose you are a little mite--er--different
from the--well, from the heft of mackerel in the keg, what of it?
That's your own private business, ain't it?"
Jed's lip twitched. "I suppose 'tis," he drawled. "If it wan't
there wouldn't be so many folks interested in it."
At first he missed the freedom to which he had accustomed himself
during his years of solitude, the liberty of preparing for bed with
the doors and windows toward the sea wide open and the shades not
drawn; of strolling out to the well at unearthly hours of the early
morning singing at the top of his lungs; of washing face and hands
in a tin basin on a bench by that well curb instead of within
doors. There were some necessary concessions to convention to
which his attention was called by Captain Hunniwell, who took it
upon himself to act as a sort of social mentor.
"Do you always wash outdoors there?" asked the captain, after
watching one set of ablutions.
"Why--er--yes, I 'most generally do in good weather. It's sort of--
er--well, sort of cool and roomy, as you might say."
"Roomy, eh? Gracious king! Well, I should say you needed room.
You splash into that basin like a kedge anchor goin' overboard and
when you come out of it you puff like a grampus comin' up to blow.
How do you cal'late Mrs. Armstrong enjoys seein' you do that?"
Jed looked startled and much disturbed. "Eh?" he exclaimed. "Why,
I never thought about her, Sam. I declare I never did. I--I'll
fetch the wash basin inside this very minute."
And he did. The inconvenience attached to the breaking off of a
summer-time habit of years troubled him not half as much as the
fear that he might have offended a fellow creature's sensibilities.
Jed Winslow was far too sensitive himself and his own feelings had
been hurt too many times to make hurting those of another a small
offense in his eyes.
But these were minor inconveniences attached to his new position as
landlord. There were recompenses. At work in his shop he could
see through the window the white-clad, graceful figure of Mrs.
Armstrong moving about the yard, sitting with Barbara on the bench
by the edge of the bluff, or writing a letter at a table she had
taken out under the shadow of the silver-leaf tree. Gradually Jed
came to enjoy seeing her there, to see the windows of the old house
open, to hear voices once more on that side of the shop, and to
catch glimpses of Babbie dancing in and out over the shining mica
slab at the door.
He liked the child when he first met her, but he had been a little
fearful that, as a neighbor, she might trouble him by running in
and out of the shop, interfering with his privacy and his work or
making a small nuisance of herself when he was waiting on
customers. But she did none of these things, in fact she did not
come into the shop at all and, after the first week had passed, he
began to wonder why. Late that afternoon, seeing her sitting on
the bench by the bluff edge, her doll in her arms, he came out of
the door of his little kitchen at the back of the shop and called
"Good evenin'," he hailed. "Takin' in the view, was you?"
She bobbed her head. "Yes, sir," she called in reply; "Petunia and
I were looking at it."
"Sho! Well, what do you and-er--What's-her-name think of it?"
Barbara pondered. "We think it's very nice," she announced, after
a moment. "Don't you like it, Mr. Winslow?"
"Eh? Oh, yes, I like it, I guess. I ain't really had time to look
at it to-day; been too busy."
The child nodded, sympathetically. "That's too bad," she said.
Jed had, for him, a curious impulse, and acted upon it.
"Maybe I might come and look at it now, if I was asked," he
suggested. "Plenty of room on that bench, is there?"
"Oh, yes, sir, there's lots. I don't take much room and Petunia
almost always sits on my lap. Please come."
So Jed came and, sitting down upon the bench, looked off at the
inlet and the beach and the ocean beyond. It was the scene most
familiar to him, one he had seen, under varying weather conditions,
through many summers and winters. This very thought was in his
mind as he looked at it now.
After a time he became aware that his companion was speaking.
"Eh?" he ejaculated, coming out of his reverie. "Did you say
"Yes, sir, three times. I guess you were thinking, weren't you?"
"Um-m--yes, I shouldn't be surprised. It's one of my bad habits,
She looked hard to see if he was smiling, but he was not, and she
accepted the statement as a serious one.
"Is thinking a bad habit?" she asked. "I didn't know it was."
"Cal'late it must be. If it wasn't, more folks would do it. Tell
me, now," he added, changing the subject to avoid further cross-
questioning, "do you and your ma like it here?"
The answer was enthusiastic. "Oh, yes!" she exclaimed, "we like it
ever and ever so much. Mamma says it's--" Barbara hesitated, and
then, after what was evidently a severe mental struggle, finished
with, "she said once it was like paradise after category."
The young lady frowned. "It doesn't seem to me," she observed,
slowly, "as if 'category' was what she said. Does 'category' sound
right to you, Mr. Winslow?"
Jed looked doubtful. "I shouldn't want to say that it did, right
offhand like this," he drawled.
"No-o. I don't believe it was 'category.' But I'm almost sure it
was something about a cat, something a cat eats--or does--or
something. Mew--mouse--milk--" she was wrinkling her forehead and
repeating the words to herself when Mr. Winslow had an inspiration.
"'Twan't purgatory, was it?" he suggested.
Miss Barbara's head bobbed enthusiastically. "Purr-gatory, that
was it," she declared. "And it was something a cat does--purr,
you know; I knew it was. Mamma said living here was paradise
Jed rubbed his chin.
"I cal'late your ma didn't care much for the board at Luretta
Smalley's," he observed. He couldn't help thinking the remark an
odd one to make to a child.
"Oh, I don't think she meant Mrs. Smalley's," explained Barbara.
"She liked Mrs. Smalley's pretty well, well as any one can like
boarding, you know," this last plainly another quotation. "I think
she meant she liked living here so much better than she did living
in Middleford, where we used to be."
"Hum," was the only comment Jed made. He was surprised,
nevertheless. Judged by what Captain Sam had told him, the
Armstrong home at Middleford should have been a pleasant one.
Barbara rattled on.
"I guess that was it," she observed. "She was sort of talking to
herself when she said it. She was writing a letter--to Uncle
Charlie, I think it was--and I and Petunia asked her if she liked
it here and she sort of looked at me without looking, same as you
do sometimes, Mr. Winslow, when you're thinking of something else,
and then she said that about the catty--no, the purr-gatory. And
when I asked her what purr-gatory meant she said, 'Never mind,'
and. . . . Oh, I forgot!" in consternation; "she told me I mustn't
tell anybody she said it, either. Oh, dear me!"
Jed hastened to reassure her. "Never mind," he declared, "I'll
forget you ever did say it. I'll start in forgettin' now. In five
minutes or so I'll have forgot two words of it already. By to-
morrow mornin' I wouldn't remember it for money."
"Truly bluely, lay me down and cut me in twoly. But what's this
you're sayin' about your ma lookin' at things without seein' 'em,
same as I do? She don't do that, does she?"
The young lady nodded. "Yes," she said; "course not as bad--I mean
not as often as you do, but sometimes, 'specially since--" She
hastily clapped her hand over her mouth. "Oh!" she exclaimed.
"What's the matter? Toothache?"
"No. Only I almost told another somethin' I mustn't."
"Sho! Well, I'm glad you put on the cover just in time."
"So am I. What else was I talking about? Oh, yes, Mamma's
thinking so hard, same as you do, Mr. Winslow. You know," she
added, earnestly, "she acts quite a lot like you sometimes."
Jed looked at her in horror. "Good Lord!" he exclaimed. Then, in
his solemnest drawl, he added, "You tell her to take somethin' for
it afore it's too late."
As he rose from the bench he observed: "Haven't seen you over to
the shop since you moved in. I've been turnin' out another school
of swordfish and whales, too. Why don't you run in and look 'em
She clapped her hands. "Oh, may I?" she cried. "I've wanted to
ever and ever so much, but Mamma said not to because it might annoy
you. Wouldn't it annoy you, TRULY?"
"Not a bit."
"Oh, goody! And might Petunia come, too?"
"Um-hm. Only," gravely, "she'll have to promise not to talk too
much. Think she'll promise that? All right; then fetch her along."
So, the very next morning, when Jed was busy at the bandsaw, he was
not greatly surprised when the door opened and Miss Barbara
appeared, with Petunia in her arms. He was surprised, however, and
not a little embarrassed when Mrs. Armstrong followed.
"Good morning," said the lady, pleasantly. "I came over to make
sure that there hadn't been a mistake. You really did ask Babby to
come in and see you at work?"
"Yes, ma'am, I--I did. I did, sartin."
"And you don't mind having her here? She won't annoy you?"
"Not a mite. Real glad to have her."
"Very well, then she may stay--an hour, but no longer. Mind,
Babby, dear, I am relying on you not to annoy Mr. Winslow."
So the juvenile visitor stayed her hour and then obediently went
away, in spite of Jed's urgent invitation to stay longer. She had
asked a good many questions and talked almost continuously, but Mr.
Winslow, instead of being bored by her prattle, was surprised to
find how empty and uninteresting the shop seemed after she had
She came again the next day and the next. By the end of the week
Jed had become sufficiently emboldened to ask her mother to permit
her to come in the afternoon also. This request was the result of
a conspiracy between Barbara and himself.
"You ask your ma," urged Jed. "Tell her I say I need you here
Barbara looked troubled. "But that would be a wrong story,
wouldn't it?" she asked. "You don't really need me, you know."
"Eh? Yes, I do; yes, I do."
"What for? What shall I tell her you need me for?"
Jed scratched his chin with the tail of a wooden whale.
"You tell her," he drawled, after considering for a minute or two,
"that I need you to help carry lumber."
Even a child could not swallow this ridiculous excuse. Barbara
burst out laughing.
"Why, Mr. Winslow!" she cried. "You don't, either. You know I
couldn't carry lumber; I'm too little. I couldn't carry any but
the littlest, tiny bit."
Jed nodded, gravely. "Yes, sartin," he agreed; "that's what I need
you to carry. You run along and tell her so, that's a good girl."
But she shook her head vigorously. "No," she declared. "She would
say it was silly, and it would be. Besides, you don't really need
me at all. You just want Petunia and me for company, same as we
want you. Isn't that it, truly?"
"Um-m. Well, I shouldn't wonder. You can tell her that, if you
want to; I'd just as soon."
The young lady still hesitated. "No-o," she said, "because she'd
think perhaps you didn't really want me, but was too polite to say
so. If you asked her yourself, though, I think she'd let me come."
At first Jed's bashfulness was up in arms at the very idea, but at
length he considered to ask Mrs. Armstrong for the permission. It
was granted, as soon as the lady was convinced that the desire for
more of her daughter's society was a genuine one, and thereafter
Barbara visited the windmill shop afternoons as well as mornings.
She sat, her doll in her arms, upon a box which she soon came to
consider her own particular and private seat, watching her long-
legged friend as he sawed or glued or jointed or painted. He had
little waiting on customers to do now, for most of the summer
people had gone. His small visitor and he had many long and, to
them, interesting conversations.
Other visitors to the shop, those who knew him well, were surprised
and amused to find him on such confidential and intimate terms with
a child. Gabe Bearse, after one short call, reported about town
that crazy Shavin's Winslow had taken up with a young-one just
about as crazy as he was.
"There she set," declared Gabriel, "on a box, hugging a broken-
nosed doll baby up to her and starin' at me and Shavin's as if we
was some kind of curiosities, as you might say. Well, one of us
was; eh? Haw, haw! She didn't say a word and Shavin's he never
said nothin' and I felt as if I was preaching in a deef and dumb
asylum. Finally, I happened to look at her and I see her lips
movin'. 'Well,' says I, 'you CAN talk, can't you, sis, even if
it's only to yourself. What was you talkin' to yourself about,
eh?' She didn't seem to want to answer; just sort of reddened up,
you know; but I kept right after her. Finally she owned up she was
countin'. 'What was you countin'?' says I. Well, she didn't want
to tell that, neither. Finally I dragged it out of her that she
was countin' how many words I'd said since I started to tell about
Melissy Busteed and what she said about Luther Small's wife's aunt,
the one that's so wheezed up with asthma and Doctor Parker don't
seem to be able to do nothin' to help. 'So you was countin' my
words, was you?' says I. 'Well, that's good business, I must say!
How many have I said?' She looked solemn and shook her head. 'I
had to give it up,' says she. 'It makes my head ache to count fast
very long. Doesn't it give you a headache to count fast, Mr.
Winslow?' Jed, he mumbled some kind of foolishness about some
things givin' him earache. I laughed at the two of 'em. 'Humph!'
says I, 'the only kind of aches I have is them in my bones,'
meanin' my rheumatiz, you understand. Shavin's he looked moony up
at the roof for about a week and a half, same as he's liable to do,
and then he drawled out: 'You see he DOES have headache, Babbie,'
says he. Now did you ever hear such fool talk outside of an
asylum? He and that Armstrong kid are well matched. No wonder she
sits in there and gapes at him half the day."
Captain Sam Hunniwell and his daughter were hugely tickled.
"Jed's got a girl at last," crowed the captain. "I'd about given
up hope, Jed. I was fearful that the bloom of your youth would
pass away from you and you wouldn't keep company with anybody.
You're so bashful that I know you'd never call on a young woman,
but I never figured that one might begin callin' on you. Course
she's kind of extra young, but she'll grow out of that, give her
Maud Hunniwell laughed merrily, enjoying Mr. Winslow's confusion.
"Oh, the little girl is only the bait, Father," she declared. "It
is the pretty widow that Jed is fishing for. She'll be calling
here soon, or he'll be calling there. Isn't that true, Jed? Own
up, now. Oh, see him blush, Father! Just see him!"
Jed, of course, denied that he was blushing. His fair tormentor
had no mercy.
"You must be," she insisted. "At any rate your face is very, very
red. I'll leave it to Father. Isn't his face red, Father?"
"Red as a flannel lung-protector," declared Captain Sam, who was
never known to contradict his only daughter, nor, so report
affirmed, deny a request of hers.
"Of course it is," triumphantly. "And it can't be the heat,
because it isn't at all warm here."
Poor Jed, the long-suffering, was goaded into a mild retort.
"There's consider'ble hot air in here some spells," he drawled,
mournfully. Miss Hunniwell went away reaffirming her belief that
Mr. Winslow's friendship for the daughter was merely a strategical
advance with the mother as the ultimate objective.
"You'll see, Father," she prophesied, mischievously. "We shall
hear of his 'keeping company' with Mrs. Armstrong soon. Oh, he
couldn't escape even if he wanted to. These young widows are
When they were a safe distance from the windmill shop the captain
cautioned his daughter.
"Maud," he said, "you'd better not tease Jed too much about that
good-lookin' tenant of his. He's so queer and so bashful that I'm
afraid if you do he'll take a notion to turn the Armstrongs out
when this month's up."
Miss Hunniwell glanced at him from the corner of her eye.
"Suppose he does?" she asked. "What of it? She isn't a GREAT
friend of yours, is she, Father?"
It was the captain's turn to look embarrassed.
"No, no, course she ain't," he declared, hastily. "All I've been
thinkin' is that Jed ought to have a tenant in that house of his,
because he needs the money. And from what I've been able to find
out about this Mrs. Armstrong she's a real nice genteel sort of
"And she's very sweet and very pretty and so, of course, naturally,
all the men, especially the middle-aged men--"
Captain Sam interrupted explosively. "Don't be so foolish!" he
ordered. "If you don't stop talkin' such nonsense I'll--I don't
know what I'll do to you. What do you suppose her bein' sweet and
good-lookin' has got to do with me? Gracious king! I've got one
good-lookin'--er--that is to say, I've got one young female to take
care of now and that's enough, in all conscience."
His daughter pinched his arm.
"Oh, ho!" she observed. "You were going to say she was good-
looking and then you changed your mind. Don't you think this young
female--WHAT a word! you ought to be ashamed of it--DON'T you think
she is good-looking, Daddy, dear?"
She looked provokingly up into his face and he looked fondly down
"Don't you?" she repeated.
"We-ll, I--I don't know as I'd want to go so far as to say that. I
presume likely her face might not stop a meetin'-house clock on a
dark night, but--"
As they were in a secluded spot where a high hedge screened them
from observation Miss Maud playfully boxed her parent's ears, a
proceeding which he seemed to enjoy hugely.
But there was reason in the captain's caution, nevertheless. Miss
Maud's "teasing" concerning the widow had set Jed to thinking. The
"trial" month was almost up. In a little while he would have to
give his decision as to whether the little Winslow house was to
continue to be occupied by Barbara and her mother, or whether it
was to be, as it had been for years, closed and shuttered tight.
He had permitted them to occupy it for that month, on the spur of
the moment, as the result of a promise made upon impulse, a
characteristic Jed Winslow impulse. Now, however, he must decide
in cold blood whether or not it should be theirs for another eleven
months at least.
In his conversation with Captain Sam, the conversation which took
place immediately after the Armstrongs came, he had stoutly
maintained that the latter would not wish to stay longer than the
month, that his own proximity as landlord and neighbor would be
unbearable longer than that period. But if the widow found it so
she had so far shown no evidence of her disgust. Apparently that
means of breaking off the relationship could not be relied upon.
Of course he did not know whether or not she wished to remain, but,
if she did, did he wish her to do so? There was nothing personal
in the matter; it was merely the question as to whether his
prejudice of years against renting that house to any one was to
rule or be overthrown. If she asked him for his decision what
should he say? At night, when he went to bed, his mind was made
up. In the morning when he arose it was unmade. As he told
Captain Hunniwell: "I'm like that old clock I used to have, Sam.
The pendulum of that thing used to work fine, but the hands
wouldn't move. Same way with me. I tick, tick, tick all day over
this pesky business, but I don't get anywheres. It's always half-
Captain Sam was hugely disgusted. "It ain't more'n quarter past,
if it is that," he declared, emphatically. "It's just nothin', if
you ask me. And say, speakin' of askin', I'd like to ask you this:
How are you goin' to get 'em out, provided you're fool enough to
decide they've got to go? Are you goin' to tell Mrs. Armstrong
right up and down and flat-footed that you can't stand any more of
her? I'd like to hear you say it. Let me know when the show's
goin' to come off. I want a seat in the front row."
Poor Jed looked aghast at the very idea. His friend laughed
derisively and walked off and left him. And the days passed and
the "trial month" drew closer and closer to its end until one
morning he awoke to realize that that end had come; the month was
up that very day.
He had not mentioned the subject to the widow, nor had she to him.
His reasons for not speaking were obvious enough; one was that he
did not know what to say, and the other that he was afraid to say
it. But, as the time approached when the decision must be made, he
had expected that she would speak. And she had not. He saw her
daily, sometimes several times a day. She often came into the shop
to find Barbara, who made the workroom a playhouse on rainy or
cloudy days, and she talked with him on other topics, but she did
not mention this one.
It was raining on this particular day, the last day in the "trial
month," and Jed, working at his lathe, momentarily expected Barbara
to appear, with Petunia under one arm and a bundle of dolls'
clothes under the other, to announce casually that, as it was such
bad weather, they had run in to keep him, Mr. Winslow, from getting
lonesome. There was precious little opportunity to be lonesome
where Babbie was.
But this morning the child did not come and Jed, wondering what the
reason for her absence might be, began to feel vaguely
uncomfortable. Just what was the matter he did not know, but that
there was something wrong with him, Jed Winslow, was plain. He
could not seem to keep his mind on his work; he found himself
wandering to the window and looking out into the yard, where the
lilac bushes whipped and thrashed in the gusts, the overflowing
spouts splashed and gurgled, and the sea beyond the edge of the
bluff was a troubled stretch of gray and white, seen through
diagonal streaks of wind-driven rain. And always when he looked
out of that window he glanced toward the little house next door,
hoping to see a small figure, bundled under a big rain coat and
sheltered by a big umbrella, dodge out of the door and race across
the yard toward the shop.
But the door remained shut, the little figure did not appear and,
except for the fact that the blinds were not closed and that there
was smoke issuing from the chimney of the kitchen, the little house
might have been as empty as it had been the month before.
Or as it might be next month. The thought came to Jed with a
meaning and emphasis which it had not brought before. A stronger
gust than usual howled around the eaves of the shop, the sashes
rattled, the panes were beaten by the flung raindrops which pounded
down in watery sheets to the sills, and Jed suddenly diagnosed his
own case, he knew what was the matter with him--he was lonesome;
he, who had lived alone for five years and had hoped to live alone
for the rest of his life, was lonesome.
He would not admit it, even to himself; it was ridiculous. He was
not lonesome, he was just a little "blue," that was all. It was
the weather; he might have caught a slight cold, perhaps his
breakfast had not agreed with him. He tried to remember what that
breakfast had been. It had been eaten in a hurry, he had been
thinking of something else as usual, and, except that it consisted
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