Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 3 out of 8
of various odds and ends which he had happened to have on hand, he
could not itemize it with exactness. There had been some cold
fried potatoes, and some warmed-over pop-overs which had "slumped"
in the cooking, and a doughnut or two and--oh, yes, a saucer of
canned peaches which had been sitting around for a week and which
he had eaten to get out of the way. These, with a cup of warmed-
over coffee, made up the meal. Jed couldn't see why a breakfast of
that kind should make him "blue." And yet he was blue--yes, and
there was no use disguising the fact, he was lonesome. If that
child would only come, as she generally did, her nonsense might
cheer him up a bit. But she did not come. And if he decided not
to permit her mother to occupy the house, she would not come much
more. Eh? Why, it was the last day of the month! She might never
Jed shut off the motor and turned away from the lathe. He sank
down into his little chair, drew his knee up under his chin, and
thought, long and seriously. When the knee slid down to its normal
position once more his mind was made up. Mrs. Armstrong might
remain in the little house--for a few months more, at any rate.
Even if she insisted upon a year's lease it wouldn't do any great
harm. He would wait until she spoke to him about it and then he
would give his consent. And--and it would please Captain Sam, at
He rose and, going to the window, looked out once more across the
yard. What he saw astonished him. The back door of the house was
partially open and a man was just coming out. The man, in dripping
oil-skins and a sou'wester, was Philander Hardy, the local
expressman. Philander turned and spoke to some one in the house
behind him. Jed opened the shop door a crack and listened.
"Yes, ma'am," he heard Hardy say. "I'll be back for 'em about four
o'clock this afternoon. Rain may let up a little mite by that
time, and anyhow, I'll have the covered wagon. Your trunks won't
get wet, ma'am; I'll see to that."
A minute later Jed, an old sweater thrown over his head and
shoulders, darted out of the front door of his shop. The express
wagon with Hardy on the driver's seat was just moving off. Jed
called after it.
"Hi, Philander!" he called, raising his voice only a little, for
fear of being overheard at the Armstrong house. "Hi, Philander,
come here a minute. I want to see you."
Mr. Hardy looked over his shoulder and then backed his equipage
opposite the Winslow gate.
"Hello, Jedidah Shavin's," he observed, with a grin. "Didn't know
you for a minute, with that shawl over your front crimps. What you
got on your mind; anything except sawdust?"
Jed was too much perturbed even to resent the loathed name "Jedidah."
"Philander," he whispered, anxiously; "say, Philander, what does
she want? Mrs. Armstrong, I mean? What is it you're comin' back
for at four o'clock?"
Philander looked down at the earnest face under the ancient
sweater. Then he winked, solemnly.
"Well, I tell you, Shavin's," he said. "You see, I don't know how
'tis, but woman folks always seem to take a terrible shine to me.
Now this Mrs. Armstrong here-- Say, she's some peach, ain't she!--
she ain't seen me more'n half a dozen times, but here she is
beggin' me to fetch her my photograph. 'It's rainin' pretty hard,
to-day,' I says. 'Won't it do if I fetch it to-morrow?' But no,
Jed held up a protesting hand. "I don't doubt she wants your
photograph, Philander," he drawled. "Your kind of face is rare.
But I heard you say somethin' about comin' for trunks. Whose
"Whose? Why, hers and the young-one's, I presume likely. 'Twas
them I fetched from Luretta Smalley's. Now she wants me to take
'em back there."
A tremendous gust, driven in from the sea, tore the sweater from
the Winslow head and shoulders and wrapped it lovingly about one of
the posts in the yard. Jed did not offer to recover it; he
scarcely seemed to know that it was gone. Instead he stood staring
at the express driver, while the rain ran down his nose and dripped
from its tip to his chin.
"She--she's goin' back to Luretta Smalley's?" he repeated. "She--"
He did not finish the sentence. Instead he turned on his heel and
walked slowly back to the shop. The sweater, wrapped about the
post where, in summer, a wooden sailor brandished his paddles,
flapped soggily in the wind. Hardy gazed after him.
"What in time--?" he exclaimed. Then, raising his voice, he
called: "Hi, Jed! Jed! You crazy critter! What--Jed, hold on a
minute, didn't you know she was goin'? Didn't she tell you? Jed!"
But Jed had entered the shop and closed the door. Philander drove
off, shaking his head and chuckling to himself.
A few minutes later Mrs. Armstrong, hearing a knock at the rear
door of the Winslow house, opened it to find her landlord standing
on the threshold. He was bareheaded and he had no umbrella.
"Why, Mr. Winslow!" she exclaimed. It was the first time that he
had come to that house of his own accord since she had occupied it.
Now he stood there, in the rain, looking at her without speaking.
"Why, Mr. Winslow," she said again. "What is it? Come in, won't
you? You're soaking wet. Come in!"
Jed looked down at the sleeves of his jacket. "Eh?" he drawled,
slowly. "Wet? Why, I don't know's I ain't--a little. It's--it's
"Raining! It's pouring. Come in."
She took him by the arm and led him through the woodshed and into
the kitchen. She would have led him further, into the sitting-
room, but he hung back.
"No, ma'am, no," he said. "I--I guess I'll stay here, if you don't
There was a patter of feet from the sitting-room and Barbara came
running, Petunia in her arms. At the sight of their visitor's
lanky form the child's face brightened.
"Oh, Mr. Winslow!" she cried. "Did you come to see where Petunia
and I were? Did you?"
Jed looked down at her. "Why--why, I don't know's I didn't," he
admitted. "I--I kind of missed you, I guess."
"Yes, and we missed you. You see, Mamma said we mustn't go to the
shop to-day because-- Oh, Mamma, perhaps he has come to tell you
we won't have to--"
Mrs. Armstrong interrupted. "Hush, Babbie," she said, quickly. "I
told Barbara not to go to visit you to-day, Mr. Winslow. She has
been helping me with the packing."
Jed swallowed hard. "Packin'?" he repeated. "You've been packin'?
Then 'twas true, what Philander Hardy said about your goin' back to
The lady nodded. "Yes," she replied. "Our month here ends to-day.
Of course you knew that."
Jed sighed miserably. "Yes, ma'am," he said, "I knew it, but I
only just realized it, as you might say. I . . . Hum! . . .
Well . . ."
He turned away and walked slowly toward the kitchen door. Barbara
would have followed but her mother laid a detaining hand upon her
shoulder. On the threshold of the door between the dining-room and
kitchen Jed paused.
"Ma'am," he said, hesitatingly, "you--you don't cal'late there's
anything I can do to--to help, is there? Anything in the packin'
or movin' or anything like that?"
"No, thank you, Mr. Winslow. The packing was very simple."
"Er--yes, ma'am. . . . Yes, ma'am."
He stopped, seemed about to speak again, but evidently changed his
mind, for he opened the door and went out into the rain without
another word. Barbara, very much surprised and hurt, looked up
into her mother's face.
"Why, Mamma," she cried, "has--has he GONE? He didn't say good-by
to us or--or anything. He didn't even say he was sorry we were
Mrs. Armstrong shook her head.
"I imagine that is because he isn't sorry, my dear," she replied.
"You must remember that Mr. Winslow didn't really wish to let any
one live in this house. We only came here by--well, by accident."
But Barbara was unconvinced.
"He ISN'T glad," she declared, stoutly. "He doesn't act that way
when he is glad about things. You see," she added, with the air of
a Mrs. Methusaleh, "Petunia and I know him better than you do,
Mamma; we've had more chances to get--to get acquainted."
Perhaps an hour later there was another knock at the kitchen door.
Mrs. Armstrong, when she opened it, found her landlord standing
there, one of his largest windmills--a toy at least three feet
high--in his arms. He bore it into the kitchen and stood it in the
middle of the floor, holding the mammoth thing, its peaked roof
high above his head, and peering solemnly out between one of its
arms and its side.
"Why, Mr. Winslow!" exclaimed Mrs. Armstrong.
"Yes, ma'am," said Jed. "I--I fetched it for Babbie. I just kind
of thought maybe she'd like it."
Barbara clasped her hands.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Oh, is it for me."
"'Tis, if you want it," he said.
"Want it? Why, Mamma, it's one of the very best mills! It's a
five dollar one, Mamma!"
Mrs. Armstrong protested. "Oh, I couldn't let you do that, Mr.
Winslow," she declared. "It is much too expensive a present. And
She checked herself just in time. It had been on the tip of her
tongue to say that she did not know what they could do with it.
Their rooms at Mrs. Smalley's were not large. It was as if a
dweller in a Harlem flat had been presented with a hippopotamus.
The maker of the mill looked about him, plainly seeking a place to
deposit his burden.
"'Tisn't anything much," he said, hastily. "I--I'm real glad for
you to have it."
He was about to put it on top of the cookstove, in which there was
a roaring fire, but Mrs. Armstrong, by a startled exclamation and a
frantic rush, prevented his doing so. So he put it on the table
instead. Barbara thanked him profusely. She was overjoyed; there
were no comparisons with hippopotami in HER mind. Jed seemed
pleased at her appreciation, but he did not smile. Instead he
"I--I just thought I wanted her to have it, ma'am," he said,
turning to Mrs. Armstrong. "'Twould keep her from--from forgettin'
me altogether, maybe. . . . Not that there's any real reason why
she should remember me, of course," he added.
Barbara was hurt and indignant.
"Of COURSE I shan't forget you, Mr. Winslow," she declared.
"Neither will Petunia. And neither will Mamma, I know. She feels
awful bad because you don't want us to live here any longer, and--"
"Hush, Babbie, hush!" commanded her mother. Barbara hushed, but
she had said enough. Jed turned a wondering face in their
direction. He stared without speaking.
Mrs. Armstrong felt that some one must say something.
"You mustn't mind what the child says, Mr. Winslow," she explained,
hurriedly. "Of course I realize perfectly that this house is yours
and you certainly have the right to do what you please with your
own. And I have known all the time that we were here merely on
Jed lifted a big hand.
"Er--er--just a minute, ma'am, please," he begged. "I--I guess my
wooden head is beginnin' to splinter or somethin'. Please answer
me just this--if--if you'd just as soon: Why are you movin' back to
It was her turn to look wonderingly at him. "Why, Mr. Winslow,"
she said, after a moment's hesitation, "isn't that rather an
unnecessary question? When Babbie and I came here it was with the
understanding that we were to be on trial for a month. We had gone
into no details at all, except that the rent for this one month
should be forty dollars. You were, as I understood it, to consider
the question of our staying and, if you liked us and liked the idea
of renting the house at all, you were to come to me and discuss the
matter. The month is up and you haven't said a word on the
subject. And, knowing what your feelings HAD been, I of course
realized that you did not wish us to remain, and so, of course, we
are going. I am sorry, very sorry. Babbie and I love this little
house, and we wish you might have cared to have us stay in it, but--"
"Hold on! hold on!" Jed was, for him, almost energetic. "Mrs.
Armstrong, ma'am, do you mean to tell me you're goin' back to
Luretta Smalley's because you think I don't want you to stay? Is
that it, honest truth?"
"Why, of course, it is. What else?"
"And--and 'tain't because you can't stand me any longer, same as
Mother used to say?"
"Can't stand you? Your mother used to say? What DO you mean, Mr.
"I mean--I mean you ain't goin' because I used to wash my face out
in the yard, and--and holler and sing mornin's and look so
everlastin' homely--and--and be what everybody calls a town crank--
"Mr. Winslow! PLEASE!"
"And--and you and Babbie would stay right here if--if you thought I
wanted you to?"
"Why, of course. But you don't, do you?"
Before Jed could answer the outside door was thrown open without
knock or preliminary warning, and Captain Sam Hunniwell, dripping
water like a long-haired dog after a bath, strode into the kitchen.
"Mornin', ma'am," he said, nodding to Mrs. Armstrong. Then,
turning to the maker of windmills: "You're the feller I'm lookin'
for," he declared. "Is what Philander Hardy told me just now true?
Jed was dreamily staring out of the window. He was smiling, a
seraphic smile. Receiving no reply, Captain Sam angrily repeated
his question. "Is it true?" he demanded.
"No-o, no, I guess 'tisn't. I'd know better if I knew what he told
"He told me that Mrs. Armstrong here was movin' back to Luretta
Smalley's to-day. Jed Winslow, have you been big enough fool--"
Jed held up the big hand.
"Yes," he said. "I always am."
"You always are--what?"
"A big enough fool. Sam, what is a lease?"
"What is a lease?"
"Yes. Never mind tellin' me; show me. Make out a lease of this
house to Mrs. Armstrong here."
Mrs. Armstrong was, naturally, rather surprised.
"Why, Mr. Winslow," she cried; "what are you talking about? We
haven't agreed upon rent or--"
"Yes, we have. We've agreed about everything. Er--Babbie, you get
your things on and come on over to the shop. You and I mustn't be
sittin' 'round here any longer. We've got to get to WORK."
And so, in as sudden a fashion as he had granted the "month's
trial," did Jed grant the permanent tenure of his property. The
question of rent, which might easily have been, with the ordinary
sort of landlord, a rock in the channel, turned out to be not even
a pebble. Captain Hunniwell, who was handling the business
details, including the making out of the lease, was somewhat
"But, Jed," he protested, "you've GOT to listen to me. She won't
pay forty a month, although she agrees with me that for a furnished
house in a location like this it's dirt cheap. Of course she's
takin' it for all the year, which does make consider'ble
difference, although from May to October, when the summer folks are
here, I could get a hundred and forty a month just as easy as . . .
Eh? I believe you ain't heard a word I've been sayin'. Gracious
king! If you ain't enough to drive the mate of a cattle boat into
gettin' religion! Do you hear me? I say she won't pay--"
Jed, who was sitting before the battered old desk in the corner of
his workshop, did not look around, but he waved his right hand, the
fingers of which held the stump of a pencil, over his shoulder.
"Ssh-h, sh-h, Sam!" he observed, mildly. "Don't bother me now;
please don't, there's a good feller. I'm tryin' to work out
"Well, this is important. Or, if it ain't, there's plenty that is
important waitin' for me up at the bank. I'm handlin' this house
business as a favor to you. If you think I've got nothin' else to
do you're mistaken."
Jed nodded, contritely, and turned to face his friend. "I know it,
Sam," he said, "I know it. I haven't got the least mite of excuse
for troublin' you."
"You ain't troublin' me--not that way. All I want of you is to say
yes or no. I tell you Mrs. Armstrong thinks she can't afford to
pay forty a month."
"And perhaps she can't. But you've got your own interests to think
about. What shall I do?"
"YES! What in time are you sayin' yes for?"
"Hum? Eh? Oh, excuse me, Sam; I didn't mean yes, I mean no."
"Well--er--er--," desperately, "you told me to say yes or no, so I--"
"See here, Jed Winslow, HAVE you heard what I've been sayin'?"
"Why, no, Sam; honest I ain't. I've run across an idea about
makin' a different kind of mill--one like a gull, you know, that'll
flap its wings up and down when the wind blows--and--er--I'm afraid
my head is solid full of that and nothin' else. There generally
ain't more'n room for one idea in my head," he added, apologetically.
"Sometimes that one gets kind of cramped."
The captain snorted in disgust. Jed looked repentant and distressed.
"I'm awful sorry, Sam," he declared. "But if it's about that house
of mine--rent or anything, you just do whatever Mrs. Armstrong says."
"Whatever SHE says? Haven't you got anything to say?"
"No, no-o, I don't know's I have. You see, I've settled that she
and Babbie are to have the house for as long as they want it, so
it's only fair to let them settle the rest, seems to me. Whatever
Mrs. Armstrong wants to pay'll be all right. You just leave it to
Captain Sam rose to his feet.
"I've a dum good mind to," he declared "'Twould serve you right if
she paid you ten cents a year." Then, with a glance of disgust at
the mountain of old letters and papers piled upon the top of the
desk where his friend was at work, he added: "What do you clean
that desk of yours with--a shovel?"
The slow smile drifted across the Winslow face. "I cal'late that's
what I should have to use, Sam," he drawled, "if I ever cleaned
The captain and the widow agreed upon thirty-five dollars a month.
It developed that she owned their former house in Middleford and
that the latter had been rented for a very much higher rent. "My
furniture," she added, "that which I did not sell when we gave up
housekeeping, is stored with a friend there. I know it is
extravagant, my hiring a furnished house, but I'm sure Mr. Winslow
wouldn't let this one unfurnished and, besides, it would be a crime
to disturb furniture and rooms which fit each other as these do.
And, after all, at the end of a year I may wish to leave Orham. Of
course I hope I shall not, but I may."
Captain Sam would have asked questions concerning her life in
Middleford, in fact he did ask a few, but the answers he received
were unsatisfactory. Mrs. Armstrong evidently did not care to talk
on the subject. The captain thought her attitude a little odd, but
decided that the tragedy of her husband's death must be the cause
of her reticence. Her parting remarks on this occasion furnished
"If you please, Captain Hunniwell," she said, "I would rather you
did not tell any one about my having lived in Middleford and my
affairs there. I have told very few people in Orham and I think on
the whole it is better not to. What is the use of having one's
personal history discussed by strangers?"
She was evidently a trifle embarrassed and confused as she said
this, for she blushed just a little. Captain Sam decided that the
blush was becoming. Also, as he walked back to the bank, he
reflected that Jed Winslow's tenant was likely to have her personal
history and affairs discussed whether she wished it or not. Young
women as attractive as she were bound to be discussed, especially
in a community the size of Orham. And, besides, whoever else she
may have told, she certainly had told him that Middleford had
formerly been her home and he had told Maud and Jed. Of course
they would say nothing if he asked them, but perhaps they had told
it already. And why should Mrs. Armstrong care, anyway?
"Let folks talk," he said that evening, in conversation with his
daughter. "Let 'em talk, that's my motto. When they're lyin'
about me I know they ain't lyin' about anybody else, that's some
comfort. But women folks, I cal'late, feel different."
Maud was interested and a little suspicious.
"You don't suppose, Pa," she said, "that this Mrs. Armstrong has a
past, do you?"
"A past? What kind of a thing is a past, for thunder sakes?"
"Why, I mean a--a--well, has she done something she doesn't want
other people to know; is she trying to hide something, like--well,
as people do in stories?"
"Eh? Oh, in the books! I see. Well, young woman, I cal'late the
first thing for your dad to do is to find out what sort of books
you read. A past! Ho, ho! I guess likely Mrs. Armstrong is a
plaguey sight more worried about the future than she is about the
past. She has lived the past already, but she's got to live the
future and pay the bills belongin' to it, and that's no triflin'
job in futures like these days."
Needless to say Jed Winslow did no speculating concerning his
tenant's "past." Having settled the question of that tenancy
definitely and, as he figured it, forever, he put the matter
entirely out of his mind and centered all his energies upon the new
variety of mill, the gull which was to flap its wings when the wind
blew. Barbara was, of course, much interested in the working out
of this invention, and her questions were many. Occasionally Mrs.
Armstrong came into the shop. She and Jed became better acquainted.
The acquaintanceship developed. Jed formed a daily habit of
stopping at the Armstrong door to ask if there were any errands to
be done downtown. "Goin' right along down on my own account,
ma'am," was his invariable excuse. "Might just as well run your
errands at the same time." Also, whenever he chopped a supply of
kindling wood for his own use he chopped as much more and filled
the oilcloth-covered box which stood by the stove in the Armstrong
kitchen. He would not come in and sit down, however, in spite of
Barbara's and her mother's urgent invitation; he was always too
"busy" for that.
But the time came when he did come in, actually come in and sit
down to a meal. Barbara, of course, was partially responsible for
this amazing invitation, but it was Heman Taylor's old brindle
tomcat which really brought it to pass. The cat in question was a
disreputable old scalawag, with tattered ears and a scarred hide,
souvenirs of fights innumerable, with no beauty and less morals,
and named, with appropriate fitness, "Cherub."
It was a quarter to twelve on a Sunday morning and Jed was
preparing his dinner. The piece de resistance of the dinner was,
in this instance, to be a mackerel. Jed had bought the mackerel of
the fish peddler the previous afternoon and it had been reposing on
a plate in the little ancient ice-chest which stood by the back
door of the Winslow kitchen. Barbara, just back from Sunday school
and arrayed in her best, saw that back door open and decided to
call. Jed, as always, was glad to see her.
"You're getting dinner, aren't you, Mr. Winslow?" she observed.
Jed looked at her over his spectacles. "Yes," he answered.
"Unless somethin' happens I'm gettin' dinner."
His visitor looked puzzled.
"Why, whatever happened you would be getting dinner just the same,
wouldn't you?" she said. "You might not have it, but you'd be
getting it, you know."
Jed took the mackerel out of the ice-chest and put the plate
containing it on the top of the latter. "We-ell," he drawled, "you
can't always tell. I might take so long gettin' it that, first
thing I knew, 'twould be supper."
Humming a hymn he took another dish from the ice-chest and placed
it beside the mackerel plate.
"What's that?" inquired Barbara.
"That? Oh, that's my toppin'-off layer. That's a rice puddin',
poor man's puddin', some folks call it. I cal'late your ma'd call
it a man's poor puddin', but it makes good enough ballast for a
craft like me." He began singing again.
"'I know not, yea, I know not
What bliss awaits me there.
Di, doo de di di doo de--'"
Breaking off to suggest: "Better stay and eat along with me to-day,
hadn't you, Babbie?"
Barbara tried hard not to seem superior.
"Thank you," she said, "but I guess I can't. We're going to have
chicken and lemon jelly." Then, remembering her manners, she
added: "We'd be awful glad if you'd have dinner with us, Mr.
Jed shook his head.
"Much obliged," he drawled, "but if I didn't eat that mackerel, who
The question was answered promptly. While Mr. Winslow and his
small caller were chatting concerning the former's dinner, another
eager personality was taking a marked interest in a portion of that
dinner. Cherub, the Taylor cat, abroad on a foraging expedition,
had scented from his perch upon a nearby fence a delicious and
appetizing odor. Following his nose, literally, Cherub descended
from the fence and advanced, sniffing as he came. The odor was
fish, fresh fish. Cherub's green eyes blazed, his advance became
crafty, strategical, determined. He crept to the Winslow back
step, he looked up through the open door, he saw the mackerel upon
its plate on the top of the ice-chest.
"If I didn't eat that mackerel," drawled Jed, "who would?"
There was a swoop through the air, a scream from Barbara, a crash--
two crashes, a momentary glimpse of a brindle cat with a mackerel
crosswise in its mouth and the ends dragging on the ground, a
rattle of claws on the fence. Then Jed and his visitor were left
to gaze upon a broken plate on the floor, an overturned bowl on top
of the ice-chest, and a lumpy rivulet of rice pudding trickling to
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" cried Barbara, wringing her hands in consternation.
Jed surveyed the ruin of the "poor man's pudding" and gazed
thoughtfully at the top of the fence over which the marauder had
"Hum," he mused. "H-u-u-m. . . . Well, I did cal'late I could get
a meal out of sight pretty fast myself, but--but--I ain't in that
"But your dinner!" wailed Barbara, almost in tears. "He's spoiled
ALL your dinner! Oh, the BAD thing! I hate that Cherub cat! I
Mr. Winslow rubbed his chin. "We-e-ll," he drawled again. "He
does seem to have done what you might call a finished job.
H-u-u-m! . . . 'Another offensive on the--er--no'theast'ard
front; all objectives attained.' That's the way the newspapers
tell such things nowadays, ain't it? . . . However, there's no
use cryin' over spilt--er--puddin'. Lucky there's eggs and milk
aboard the ship. I shan't starve, anyhow."
Barbara was aghast. "Eggs and milk!" she repeated. "Is THAT all
you've got for Sunday dinner, Mr. Winslow? Why, that's awful!"
Jed smiled and began picking up the fragments of the plate. He
went to the closet to get a broom and when he came out again the
young lady had vanished.
But she was back again in a few minutes, her eyes shining.
"Mr. Winslow," she said, "Mamma sent me to ask if you could please
come right over to our house. She--she wants to see you."
Jed regarded her doubtfully. "Wants to see me?" he repeated.
The child shook her head; her eyes sparkled more than ever. "I'm
not sure," she said, "but I think there's something she wants you
Wondering what the something might be, Jed promised to be over in a
minute or two. Barbara danced away, apparently much excited. Mr.
Winslow, remembering that it was Sunday, performed a hasty toilet
at the sink, combed his hair, put on his coat and walked across the
yard. Barbara met him at the side door of the house.
"Mamma's in the dining-room," she said. "Come right in, Mr.
So Jed entered the dining-room, to find the table set and ready,
with places laid for three instead of two, and Mrs. Armstrong
drawing back one of three chairs. He looked at her.
"Good mornin', ma'am," he stammered. "Babbie, she said--er--she
said there was somethin' you wanted me to do."
The lady smiled. "There is," she replied. "Babbie has told me
what happened to your dinner, and she and I want you to sit right
down and have dinner with us. We're expecting you, everything is
ready, and we shall--yes, we shall be hurt if you don't stay.
Shan't we, Babbie?"
Barbara nodded vigorously. "Awf'ly," she declared; "'specially
Petunia. You will stay, won't you, Mr. Winslow--please?"
Poor Jed! His agitation was great, his embarrassment greater and
his excuses for not accepting the invitation numerous if not
convincing. But at last he yielded and sat reluctantly down to the
first meal he had eaten in that house for five years.
Mrs. Armstrong, realizing his embarrassment, did not urge him to
talk and Barbara, although she chattered continuously, did not seem
to expect answers to her questions. So Jed ate a little, spoke a
little, and thought a great deal. And by the time dinner was over
some of his shyness and awkwardness had worn away. He insisted
upon helping with the dishes and, because she saw that he would be
hurt if she did not, his hostess permitted him to do so.
"You see, ma'am," he said, "I've been doin' dishes for a
consider'ble spell, more years than I like to count. I ought to be
able to do 'em fair to middlin' well. But," he added, as much to
himself as to her, "I don't know as that's any sign. There's so
many things I ought to be able to do like other folks--and can't.
I'm afraid you may not be satisfied, after all, ma'am," he went on.
"I suppose you're a kind of an expert, as you might say."
She shook her head. "I fear I'm no expert, Mr. Winslow," she
answered, just a little sadly, so it seemed to him. "Barbara and I
are learning, that is all."
"Nora used to do the dishes at home," put in Barbara. "Mamma
"Hush, dear," interrupted her mother. "Mr. Winslow wouldn't be
After considerable urging Jed consented to sit a while in the
living-room. He was less reluctant to talk by this time and, the
war creeping into the conversation, as it does into all
conversations nowadays, they spoke of recent happenings at home and
abroad. Mrs. Armstrong was surprised to find how well informed her
landlord was concerning the world struggle, its causes and its
"Why, no, ma'am," he said, in answer to a remark of hers; "I ain't
read it up much, as I know of, except in the newspapers. I ain't
an educated man. Maybe--" with his slow smile--"maybe you've
guessed as much as that already."
"I know that you have talked more intelligently on this war than
any one else I have heard since I came to this town," she declared,
emphatically. "Even Captain Hunniwell has never, in my hearing,
stated the case against Germany as clearly as you put it just now;
and I have heard him talk a good deal."
Jed was evidently greatly pleased, but he characteristically tried
not to show it. "Well, now, ma'am," he drawled, "I'm afraid you
ain't been to the post office much mail times. If you'd just drop
in there some evenin' and hear Gabe Bearse and Bluey Batcheldor
raise hob with the Kaiser you'd understand why the confidence of
the Allies is unshaken, as the Herald gave out this mornin'."
A little later he said, reflectively:
"You know, ma'am, it's an astonishin' thing to me, I can't get over
it, my sittin' here in this house, eatin' with you folks and
talkin' with you like this."
Mrs. Armstrong smiled. "I can't see anything so very astonishing
about it," she said.
"Certainly not. Why shouldn't you do it--often? We are landlord
and tenant, you and I, but that is no reason, so far as I can see,
why we shouldn't be good neighbors."
He shook his head.
"I don't know's you quite understand, ma'am," he said. "It's your
thinkin' of doin' it, your askin' me and--and WANTIN' to ask me
that seems so kind of odd. Do you know," he added, in a burst of
confidence, "I don't suppose that, leavin' Sam Hunniwell out,
another soul has asked me to eat at their house for ten year.
Course I'm far from blamin' 'em for that, you understand, but--"
"Wait. Mr. Winslow, you had tenants in this house before?"
"Yes'm. Davidson, their names was."
"And did THEY never invite you here?"
Jed looked at her, then away, out of the window. It was a moment
or two before he answered. Then--
"Mrs. Armstrong," he said, "you knew, I cal'late, that I was--er--
kind of prejudiced against rentin' anybody this house after the
The lady, trying not to smile, nodded.
"Yes," she replied, "I--well, I guessed as much."
"Yes'm, I was. They would have took it again, I'm pretty sartin,
if I'd let 'em, but--but somehow I couldn't do it. No, I couldn't,
and I never meant anybody else should be here. Seems funny to you,
I don't doubt."
"Why, no, it was your property to do what you pleased with, and I
am sure you had a reason for refusing."
"Yes'm. But I ain't ever told anybody what that reason was. I've
told Sam a reason, but 'twan't the real one. I--I guess likely
I'll tell it to you. I imagine 'twill sound foolish enough. 'Twas
just somethin' I heard Colonel Davidson say, that's all."
He paused. Mrs. Armstrong did not speak. After an interval he
"'Twas one day along the last of the season. The Davidsons had
company and they'd been in to see the shop and the mills and vanes
and one thing or 'nother. They seemed nice, pleasant enough folks;
laughed a good deal, but I didn't mind that. I walked out into the
yard along with 'em and then, after I left 'em, I stood for a
minute on the front step of the shop, with the open door between me
and this house here. A minute or so later I heard 'em come into
this very room. They couldn't see me, 'count of the door, but I
could hear them, 'count of the windows bein' open. And then . . .
Huh . . . Oh, well."
He sighed and lapsed into one of his long fits of abstraction. At
length Mrs. Armstrong ventured to remind him.
"And then--?" she asked.
"Eh? Oh, yes, ma'am! Well, then I heard one of the comp'ny say:
'I don't wonder you enjoy it here, Ed,' he says. 'That landlord of
yours is worth all the rent you pay and more. 'Tain't everybody
that has a dime museum right on the premises.' All hands laughed
and then Colonel Davidson said: 'I thought you'd appreciate him,'
he says. 'We'll have another session with him before you leave.
Perhaps we can get him into the house here this evenin'. My wife
is pretty good at that, she jollies him along. Oh, he swallows it
all; the poor simpleton don't know when he's bein' shown off.'"
Mrs. Armstrong uttered an exclamation.
"Oh!" she cried. "The brute!"
"Yes'm," said Jed, quietly, "that was what he said. You see," with
an apologetic twitch of the lip, "it came kind of sudden to me and--
and it hurt. Fact is, I--I had noticed he and his wife was--er--
well, nice and--er--folksy, as you might say, but I never once
thought they did it for any reason but just because they--well,
liked me, maybe. Course I'd ought to have known better. Fine
ladies and gentlemen like them don't take much fancy to dime museum
There was just a trace of bitterness in his tone, the first Mrs.
Armstrong had ever noticed there. Involuntarily she leaned toward
"Don't, Mr. Winslow," she begged. "Don't think of it again. They
must have been beasts, those people, and they don't deserve a
moment's thought. And DON'T call them ladies and gentlemen. The
only gentleman there was yourself."
Jed shook his head.
"If you said that around the village here," he drawled, "somebody
might be for havin' you sent to the asylum up to Taunton. Course
I'm much obliged to you, but, honest, you hadn't ought to take the
Mrs. Armstrong smiled slightly, but hers was a forced smile. What
she had just heard, told in her guest's quaint language as a
statement of fact and so obviously with no thought of effect, had
touched her more than any plea for sympathy could have done. She
felt as if she had a glimpse into this man's simple, trusting,
sensitive soul. And with that glimpse came a new feeling toward
him, a feeling of pity--yes, and more than that, a feeling of
He sighed again and rose to go. "I declare," he said,
apologetically, "I don't know what I've been botherin' you with all
this for. As I said, I've never told that yarn to anybody afore
and I never meant to tell it. I--"
But she interrupted him. "Please don't apologize," she said. "I'm
very glad you told it to me."
"I cal'late you think it's a queer reason for lettin' this house
stand empty all this time."
"No, I think it was a very good one, and Babbie and I are honored
to know that your estimate of us is sufficiently high to overcome
"Well, ma'am, I--I guess it's goin' to be all right. If you feel
you can get along with me for a landlord I'd ought sartin to be
willin' to have you for tenants. Course I don't blame the
Davidsons, in one way, you understand, but--"
"I do. I blame them in every way. They must have been unspeakable.
Mr. Winslow, I hope you will consider Babbie and me not merely
tenants and neighbors, but friends--real friends."
Jed did not reply for at least a minute. Then he said: "I'm afraid
you'll be kind of lonesome; my friends are like corn sprouts in a
henyard, few and scatterin'."
"So much the better; we shall feel that we belong to select
He did not thank her nor answer, but walked slowly on through the
dining-room and kitchen, where he opened the door and stepped out
upon the grass. There he stood for a moment, gazing at the sky,
alternately puckering his lips and opening them, but without saying
a word. Mrs. Armstrong and Barbara, who had followed him, watched
these facial gymnastics, the lady with astonishment, her daughter
with expectant interest.
"I know what he is doing that for, Mamma," she whispered. "It's
because he's thinking and don't know whether to whistle or not.
When he thinks AWFUL hard he's almost sure to whistle--or sing."
"Hush, hush, Babbie!"
"Oh, he won't hear us. He hardly ever hears any one when he's
thinking like that. And see, Mamma, he IS going to whistle."
Sure enough, their guest whistled a few mournful bars, breaking off
suddenly to observe:
"I hope there wan't any bones in it."
"Bones in what? What do you mean, Mr. Winslow?" queried Mrs.
Armstrong, who was puzzled, to say the least.
"Eh? Oh, I hope there wan't any bones in that mackerel Heman's cat
got away with. If there was it might choke or somethin'."
"Good gracious! I shouldn't worry over that possibility, if I were
you. I should scarcely blame you for wishing it might choke, after
stealing your dinner."
Mr. Winslow shook his head. "That wouldn't do," solemnly. "If it
choked it couldn't ever steal another one."
"But you don't WANT it to steal another one, do you?"
"We-ll, if every one it stole meant my havin' as good an afternoon
as this one's been, I'd--"
He stopped. Barbara ventured to spur him on.
"You'd what?" she asked.
"I'd give up whittlin' weather vanes and go mackerel-seinin' for
the critter's benefit. Well--er--good day, ma'am."
"Good afternoon, Mr. Winslow. We shall expect you again soon. You
must be neighborly, for, remember, we are friends now."
Jed was half way across the yard, but he stopped and turned.
"My--my FRIENDS generally call me 'Jed,'" he said. Then, his face
a bright red, he hurried into the shop and closed the door.
After this, having broken the ice, Jed, as Captain Sam Hunniwell
might have expressed it, "kept the channel clear." When he stopped
at the kitchen door of his tenants' house he no longer invariably
refused to come in and sit down. When he inquired if Mrs.
Armstrong had any errands to be done he also asked if there were
any chores he might help out with. When the old clock--a genuine
Seth Willard--on the wall of the living-room refused to go, he came
in, sat down, took the refractory timepiece in his arms and, after
an hour of what he called "putterin' and jackleggin'," hung it up
again apparently in as good order as ever. During the process he
whistled a little, sang a hymn or two, and talked with Barbara, who
found the conversation a trifle unsatisfactory.
"He hardly EVER finished what he was going to say," she confided to
her mother afterward. "He'd start to tell me a story and just as
he got to the most interesting part something about the clock would
seem to--you know--trouble him and he'd stop and, when he began
again, he'd be singing instead of talking. I asked him what made
him do it and he said he cal'lated his works must be loose and
every once in a while his speaking trumpet fell down into his music
box. Isn't he a funny man, Mamma?"
"He is indeed, Babbie."
"Yes. Petunia and I think he's--he's perfectly scrushe-aking.
'Twas awful nice of him to fix our clock, wasn't it, Mamma."
"Yes. And I know why he did it; he told me. 'Twas on Petunia's
account. He said not to let her know it but he'd taken
consider'ble of a shine to her. I think he's taken a shine to me,
don't you, Mamma?"
"I'm sure of it."
"So am I. And I 'most guess he's taken one to you, too. Anyhow he
watches you such a lot and notices so many things. He asked me to-
day if you had been crying. I said no. You hadn't, had you,
Mrs. Armstrong evaded the question by changing the subject. She
decided she must be more careful in hiding her feelings when her
landlord was about. She had had no idea that he could be so
observing; certainly he did not look it.
But her resolution was a little late. Jed had made up his mind
that something was troubling his fair tenant. Again and again, now
that he was coming to know her better and better, he had noticed
the worn, anxious look on her face, and once before the day of the
clock repairing he had seen her when it seemed to him that she had
been crying. He did not mention his observations or inferences to
any one, even Captain Sam, but he was sure he was right. Mrs.
Armstrong was worried and anxious and he did not like the idea. He
wished he might help her, but of course he could not. Another man,
a normal man, one not looked upon by a portion of the community as
"town crank," might have been able to help, might have known how to
offer his services and perhaps have them accepted, but not he, not
Jedidah Edgar Wilfred Winslow. But he wished he could. She had
asked him to consider her a real friend, and to Jed, who had so
few, a friend was a possession holy and precious.
Meanwhile the war was tightening its grip upon Orham as upon every
city, town and hamlet in the land. At first it had been a thing to
read about in the papers, to cheer for, to keep the flags flying.
But it had been far off, unreal. Then came the volunteering, and
after that the draft, and the reality drew a little nearer. Work
upon the aviation camp at East Harniss had actually begun. The
office buildings were up and the sheds for the workmen. They were
erecting frames for the barracks, so Gabriel Bearse reported. The
sight of a uniform in Orham streets was no longer such a novelty as
to bring the population, old and young, to doors and windows. Miss
Maud Hunniwell laughingly confided to Jed that she was beginning to
have hopes, real hopes, of seeing genuine gold lace some day soon.
Captain Sam, her father, was busy. Sessions of the Exemption Board
were not quite as frequent as at first, but the captain declared
them frequent enough. And volunteering went on steadily here and
there among young blood which, having drawn a low number in the
draft, was too impatient for active service to wait its turn.
Gustavus Howes, bookkeeper at the bank, was one example. Captain
Sam told Jed about it on one of his calls.
"Yep," he said, "Gus has gone, cleared out yesterday afternoon.
Goin' to one of the trainin' camps to try to learn to be an
officer. Eh? What did I say to him? Why, I couldn't say nothin',
could I, but 'Hurrah' and 'God bless you'? But it's leavin' a bad
hole in the bank just the same."
Jed asked if the bank had any one in view to fill that hole.
Captain Sam looked doubtful.
"Well," he replied, "we've got somebody in view that would like to
try and fill it. Barzilla Small was in to see me yesterday
afternoon and he's sartin that his boy Luther--Lute, everybody
calls him--is just the one for the place. He's been to work up in
Fall River in a bank, so Barzilla says; that would mean he must
have had some experience. Whether he'll do or not I don't know,
but he's about the only candidate in sight, these war times. What
do you think of him, Jed?"
Jed rubbed his chin. "To fill Gus Howes' place?" he asked.
"Yes, of course. Didn't think I was figgerin' on makin' him
President of the United States, did you?"
"Hum! . . . W-e-e-ll. . . . One time when I was a little shaver,
Sam, down to the fishhouse, I tried on a pair of Cap'n Jabe Kelly's
rubber boots. You remember Cap'n Jabe, Sam, of course. Do you
remember his feet?"
The captain chuckled. "My dad used to say Jabe's feet reminded him
of a couple of chicken-halibut."
"Um-hm. . . . Well, I tried on his boots and started to walk
across the wharf in em. . . ."
"Well, what of it? Gracious king! hurry up. What happened?"
"Eh? . . . Oh, nothin' much, only seemed to me I'd had half of my
walk afore those boots began to move."
Captain Hunniwell enjoyed the story hugely. It was not until his
laugh had died away to a chuckle that its application to the bank
situation dawned upon him.
"Umph!" he grunted. "I see. You cal'late that Lute Small will
fill Gus Howes' job about the way you filled those boots, eh? You
may be right, shouldn't wonder if you was, but we've got to have
somebody and we've got to have him now. So I guess likely we'll
let Lute sign on and wait till later to find out whether he's an
able seaman or a--a--"
He hesitated, groping for a simile. Mr. Winslow supplied one.
"Or a leak," he suggested.
"Yes, that's it. Say, have you heard anything from Leander Babbitt
"No, nothin' more than Gab Bearse was reelin' off last time he was
in here. How is Phin Babbitt? Does he speak to you yet?"
"Not a word. But the looks he gives me when we meet would sour
milk. He's dead sartin that I had somethin' to do with his boy's
volunteerin' and he'll never forgive me for it. He's the best hand
at unforgivin' I ever saw. No, no! Wonder what he'd say if he
knew 'twas you, Jed, that was really responsible?"
Jed shook his head, but made no reply. His friend was at the door.
"Any money to take to the bank?" he inquired. "Oh, no, I took what
you had yesterday, didn't I? Any errands you want done over to
Harniss? Maud and I are goin' over there in the car this
Jed seemed to reflect. "No-o," he said; "no, I guess not. . . .
Why, yes, I don't know but there is, though. If you see one of
those things the soldiers put on in the trenches I'd wish you'd buy
it for me. You know what I mean--a gas mask."
"A gas mask! Gracious king! What on earth?"
Jed sighed. "'Twould be consider'ble protection when Gabe Bearse
dropped in and started talkin'," he drawled, solemnly.
October came in clear and fine and on a Saturday in that month Jed
and Barbara went on their long anticipated picnic to the aviation
camp at East Harniss. The affair was one which they had planned
together. Barbara, having heard much concerning aviation during
her days of playing and listening in the windmill shop, had asked
questions. She wished to know what an aviation was. Jed had
explained, whereupon his young visitor expressed a wish to go and
see for herself. "Couldn't you take Petunia and me some time, Mr.
Winslow?" she asked.
"Guess maybe so," was the reply, "provided I don't forget it, same
as you forget about not callin' me Mr. Winslow."
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Petunia ought to have reminded me. Can't you
take me some time, Uncle Jed?"
He had insisted upon her dropping the "Mr." in addressing him.
"Your ma's goin' to call me Jed," he told her; "that is to say, I
hope she is, and you might just as well. I always answer fairly
prompt whenever anybody says 'Jed,' 'cause I'm used to it. When
they say 'Mr. Winslow' I have to stop and think a week afore I
remember who they mean."
But Barbara, having consulted her mother, refused to address her
friend as "Jed." "Mamma says it wouldn't be respect--respectaful,"
she said. "And I don't think it would myself. You see, you're
older than I am," she added.
Jed nodded gravely. "I don't know but I am, a little, now you
remind me of it," he admitted. "Well, I tell you--call me 'Uncle
Jed.' That's got a handle to it but it ain't so much like the
handle to an ice pitcher as Mister is. 'Uncle Jed' 'll do, won't
Barbara pondered. "Why," she said, doubtfully, "you aren't my
uncle, really. If you were you'd be Mamma's brother, like--like
Uncle Charlie, you know."
It was the second time she had mentioned "Uncle Charlie." Jed had
never heard Mrs. Armstrong speak of having a brother, and he
wondered vaguely why. However, he did not wonder long on this
"Humph!" he grunted. "Well, let's see. I tell you: I'll be your
step-uncle. That'll do, won't it? You've heard of step-fathers?
Um-hm. Well, they ain't real fathers, and a step-uncle ain't a
real uncle. Now you think that over and see if that won't fix it
The child thought it over. "And shall I call you 'Step-Uncle
Jed'?" she asked.
"Eh? . . . Um. . . . No-o, I guess I wouldn't. I'm only a back
step-uncle, anyway--I always come to the back steps of your house,
you know--so I wouldn't say anything about the step part. You ask
your ma and see what she says."
So Barbara asked and reported as follows:
"She says I may call you 'Uncle Jed' when it's just you and I
together," she said. "But when other people are around she thinks
'Mr. Winslow' would be more respectaful."
It was settled on that basis.
"Can't you take me to the aviation place sometime, Uncle Jed?"
Jed thought he could, if he could borrow a boat somewhere and Mrs.
Armstrong was willing that Barbara should go with him. Both
permission and the boat were obtained, the former with little
difficulty, after Mrs. Armstrong had made inquiries concerning Mr.
Winslow's skill in handling a boat, the latter with more. At last
Captain Perez Ryder, being diplomatically approached, told Jed he
might use his eighteen foot power dory for a day, the only cost
being that entailed by purchase of the necessary oil and gasoline.
It was a beautiful morning when they started on their six mile
sail, or "chug," as Jed called it. Mrs. Armstrong had put up a
lunch for them, and Jed had a bucket of clams, a kettle, a pail of
milk, some crackers, onions and salt pork, the ingredients of a
"Little mite late for 'longshore chowder picnics, ma'am," he said,
"but it's a westerly wind and I cal'late 'twill be pretty balmy in
the lee of the pines. Soon's it gets any ways chilly we'll be
startin' home. Wish you were goin' along, too."
Mrs. Armstrong smiled and said she wished it had been possible for
her to go, but it was not. She looked pale that morning, so it
seemed to Jed, and when she smiled it was with an obvious effort.
"You're not going without locking your kitchen door, are you, Mr.
Jed?" she asked.
Jed looked at her and at the door.
"Why," he observed, "I ain't locked that door, have I! I locked
the front one, the one to the shop, though. Did you see the sign I
tacked on the outside of it?"
"No, I didn't."
"I didn't know but you might have. I put on it: 'Closed for the
day. Inquire at Abijah Thompson's.' You see," he added, his eye
twinkling ever so little, "'Bije Thompson lives in the last house
in the village, two mile or more over to the west'ard."
"He does! Then why in the world did you tell people to inquire
"Oh, if I didn't they'd be botherin' you, probably, and I didn't
want 'em doin' that. If they want me enough to travel way over to
'Bije's they'll come back here to-morrow, I shouldn't wonder. I
guess likely they'd have to; 'Bije don't know anything about me."
He rubbed his chin and then added:
"Maybe 'twould be a good notion to lock that kitchen door."
They were standing at the edge of the bluff. He sauntered over to
the kitchen, closed the door, and then, opening the window beside
it, reached in through that window and turned the key in the lock
of the door. Leaving the key in that lock and the window still
open, he came sauntering back again.
"There," he drawled, "I guess everything's safe enough now."
Mrs. Armstrong regarded him in amused wonder. "Do you usually lock
your door on the inside in that way?" she asked.
"Eh? . . . Oh, yes'm. If I locked it on the outside I'd have to
take the key with me, and I'm such an absent-minded dumb-head, I'd
be pretty sure to lose it. Come on, Babbie. All aboard!"
The "Araminta," which was the name of Captain Perez's power dory--a
name, so the captain invariably explained, "wished onto her" before
he bought her--chugged along steadily if not swiftly. The course
was always in protected water, inside the outer beaches or through
the narrow channels between the sand islands, and so there were no
waves to contend with and no danger. Jed, in the course of his
varied experience afloat and ashore, had picked up a working
knowledge of gasoline engines and, anyhow, as he informed his small
passenger, the "Araminta's" engine didn't need any expert handling.
"She runs just like some folks' tongues; just get her started and
she'll clack along all day," he observed, adding philosophically,
"and that's a good thing--in an engine."
"I know whose tongue you're thinking about, Uncle Jed," declared
Barbara. "It's Mr. Gabe Bearse's."
Jed was much amused; he actually laughed aloud. "Gabe and this
engine are different in one way, though," he said. "It's within
the bounds of human possibility to stop this engine."
They threaded the last winding channel and came out into the bay.
Across, on the opposite shore, the new sheds and lumber piles of
what was to be the aviation camp loomed raw and yellow in the
sunlight. A brisk breeze ruffled the blue water and the pines on
the hilltops shook their heads and shrugged their green shoulders.
The "Araminta" chugged across the bay, rising and falling ever so
little on the miniature rollers.
"What shall we do, Uncle Jed?" asked Barbara. "Shall we go to see
the camp or shall we have our chowder and luncheon first and then
Jed took out his watch, shook it and held it to his ear--a
precautionary process rendered necessary because of his habit of
forgetting to wind it--then after a look at the dial, announced
that, as it was only half-past ten, perhaps they had better go to
the camp first.
"You see," he observed, "if we eat now we shan't hardly know
whether we're late to breakfast or early to dinner."
Barbara was surprised.
"Why, Uncle Jed!" she exclaimed, "I had breakfast ever so long ago!
"I had it about the same time you did, I cal'late. But my
appetite's older than yours and it don't take so much exercise; I
guess that's the difference. We'll eat pretty soon. Let's go and
look the place over first."
They landed in a little cove on the beach adjoining the Government
reservation. Jed declared it a good place to make a fire, as it
was sheltered from the wind. He anchored the boat at the edge of
the channel and then, pulling up the tops of his long-legged rubber
boots, carried his passenger ashore. Another trip or two landed
the kettle, the materials for the chowder and the lunch baskets.
Jed looked at the heap on the beach and then off at the boat.
"Now," he said, slowly, "the question is what have I left aboard
that I ought to have fetched ashore and what have I fetched here
that ought to be left there? . . . Hum. . . . I wonder."
"What makes you think you've done anything like that, Uncle Jed?"
"Eh? . . . Oh, I don't think it, I know it. I've boarded with
myself for forty-five year and I know if there's anything I can get
cross-eyed I'll do it. Just as likely as not I've made the bucket
of clams fast to that rope out yonder and hove it overboard, and
pretty soon you'll see me tryin' to make chowder out of the
anchor. . . . Ah hum. . . well. . . .
'As numberless as the sands on the seashore,
As numberless as the sands on the shore,
Oh, what a sight 'twill be, when the ransomed host we see,
As numberless as--'
Well, what do you say? Shall we heave ahead for the place where
Uncle Sam's birds are goin' to nest--his two-legged birds, I mean?"
They walked up the beach a little way, then turned inland, climbed
a dune covered with beachgrass and emerged upon the flat meadows
which would soon be the flying field. They walked about among the
sheds, the frames of the barracks, and inspected the office
building from outside. There were gangs of workmen, carpenters,
plumbers and shovelers, but almost no uniforms. Barbara was
"But there ARE soldiers here," she declared. "Mamma said there
were, officer soldiers, you know."
"I cal'late there ain't very many yet," explained her companion.
"Only the few that's in charge, I guess likely. By and by there'll
be enough, officers and men both, but now there's only carpenters
"But there are SOME officer ones--" insisted Babbie. "I wonder--
Oh, see, Uncle Jed, through that window--see, aren't those
soldiers? They've got on soldier clothes."
Jed presumed likely that they were. Barbara nodded, sagely. "And
they're officers, too," she said, "I'm sure they are because
they're in the office. Do they call them officers because they
work in offices, Uncle Jed?"
After an hour's walking about they went back to the place where
they had left the boat and Jed set about making the chowder.
Barbara watched him build the fire and open the clams, but then,
growing tired of sitting still, she was seized with an idea.
"Uncle Jed," she asked, "can't you whittle me a shingle boat? You
know you did once at our beach at home. And there's the cunningest
little pond to sail it on. Mamma would let me sail it there, I
know, 'cause it isn't a bit deep. You come and see, Uncle Jed."
The "pond" was a puddle, perhaps twenty feet across, left by the
outgoing tide. Its greatest depth was not more than a foot. Jed
absent-mindedly declared the pond to be safe enough but that he
could not make a shingle boat, not having the necessary shingle.
"Would you if you had one?" persisted the young lady.
"Eh? . . . Oh, yes, sartin, I guess so."
"All right. Here is one. I picked it up on top of that little
hill. I guess it blew there. It's blowing ever so much harder up
there than it is here on the beach."
The shingle boat being hurriedly made, its owner begged for a paper
sail. "The other one you made me had a paper sail, Uncle Jed."
Jed pleaded that he had no paper. "There's some wrapped 'round the
lunch," he said, "but it's all butter and such. 'Twouldn't be any
good for a sail. Er--er--don't you think we'd better put off
makin' the sail till we get home or--or somewheres? This chowder
is sort of on my conscience this minute."
Babbie evidently did not think so. She went away on an exploring
expedition. In a few minutes she returned, a sheet of paper in her
"It was blowing around just where I found the shingle," she
declared. "It's a real nice place to find things, up on that hill
place, Uncle Jed."
Jed took the paper, looked at it absently--he had taken off his
coat during the fire-building and his glasses were presumably in
the coat pocket--and then hastily doubled it across, thrust the
mast of the "shingle boat" through it at top and bottom, and handed
the craft to his small companion.
"There!" he observed; "there she is, launched, rigged and all but
christened. Call her the--the 'Geranium'--the 'Sunflower'--what's
the name of that doll baby of yours? Oh, yes, the 'Petunia.' Call
her that and set her afloat."
But Barbara shook her head.
"I think," she said, "if you don't mind, Uncle Jed, I shall call
this one 'Ruth,' that's Mamma's name, you know. The other one you
made me was named for Petunia, and we wouldn't want to name 'em ALL
for her. It might make her too--too-- Oh, what ARE those things
you make, Uncle Jed? In the shop, I mean."
"No. The others--those you tell the wind with. I know--vanes. It
might make Petunia too vain. That's what Mamma said I mustn't be
when I had my new coat, the one with the fur, you know."
She trotted off. Jed busied himself with the chowder. A few
minutes later a voice behind him said: "Hi, there!" He turned to
see a broad-shouldered stranger, evidently a carpenter or workman
of some sort, standing at the top of the sand dune and looking down
at him with marked interest.
"Hi, there!" repeated the stranger.
Jed nodded; his attention was centered on the chowder. "How d'ye
do?" he observed, politely. "Nice day, ain't it? . . . Hum. . . .
About five minutes more."
The workman strode down the bank.
"Say," he demanded, "have you seen anything of a plan?"
"Eh? . . . Hum. . . . Two plates and two spoons . . . and two
tumblers. . . ."
"Hey! Wake up! Have you seen anything of a plan, I ask you?"
"Eh? . . . A plan? . . . No, I guess not. . . . No, I ain't. . . .
What is it?"
"What IS it? How do you know you ain't seen it if you don't know
what it is?"
"Eh? . . . I don't, I guess likely."
"Say, you're a queer duck, it strikes me. What are you up to?
What are you doin' here, anyway?"
Jed took the cover from the kettle and stirred the fragrant,
bubbling mass with a long-handled spoon.
"About done," he mused, slowly. "Just . . . about . . . done.
Give her two minutes more for luck and then. . . ."
But his visitor was becoming impatient. "Are you deaf or are you
tryin' to get my goat?" he demanded. "Because if you are you're
pretty close to doin' it, I'll tell you that. You answer when I
speak to you; understand? What are you doin' here?"
His tone was so loud and emphatic that even Mr. Winslow could not
help but hear and understand. He looked up, vaguely troubled.
"I--I hope you'll excuse me, Mister," he stammered. "I'm afraid I
haven't been payin' attention the way I'd ought to. You see, I'm
makin' a chowder here and it's just about got to the place where
"Look here, you," began his questioner, but he was interrupted in
his turn. Over the edge of the bank came a young man in the khaki
uniform of the United States Army. He was an officer, a second
lieutenant, and a very young and very new second lieutenant at
that. His face was white and he seemed much agitated.
"What's the matter here?" he demanded. Then, seeing Jed for the
first time, he asked: "Who is this man and what is he doing here?"
"That's just what I was askin' him, sir," blustered the workman.
"I found him here with this fire goin' and I asked him who he was
and what he was doin'. I asked him first if he'd seen the plan--"
"Had he?" broke in the young officer, eagerly. Then, addressing
Jed, he said: "Have you seen anything of the plan?"
Jed slowly shook his head. "I don't know's I know what you mean by
a plan," he explained. "I ain't been here very long. I just-- My
soul and body!"
He snatched the kettle from the fire, took off the cover, sniffed
anxiously, and then added, with a sigh of relief, "Whew! I declare
I thought I smelt it burnin'. Saved it just in time. Whew!"
The lieutenant looked at Jed and then at the workman. The latter
shook his head.
"Don't ask me, sir," he said. "That's the way he's been actin'
ever since I struck here. Either he's batty or else he's
pretendin' to be, one or the other. Look here, Rube!" he roared at
the top of his lungs, "can the cheap talk and answer the
lieutenant's questions or you'll get into trouble. D'ye hear?"
Jed looked up at him. "I'm pretty nigh sure I should hear if you
whispered a little louder," he said, gently.
The young officer drew himself up. "That's enough of this," he
ordered. "A plan has been lost here on this reservation, a
valuable plan, a drawing of--well, a drawing that has to do with
the laying out of this camp and which might be of value to the
enemy if he could get it. It was on my table in the office less
than an hour ago. Now it is missing. What we are asking you is
whether or not you have seen anything of it. Have you?"
Jed shook his head. "I don't think I have," he replied.
"You don't think? Don't you know? What is the matter with you?
Is it impossible for you to answer yes or no to a question?"
"Um--why, yes, I cal'late 'tis--to some questions."
"Well, by George! You're fresh enough."
"Now--now, if you please, I wasn't intendin' to be fresh. I just--"
"Well, you are. Who is this fellow? How does he happen to be
here? Does any one know?"
Jed's first interrogator, the big workman, being the only one
present beside the speaker and the object of the question, took it
upon himself to answer.
"I don't know who he is," he said. "And he won't tell why he's
here. Looks mighty suspicious to me. Shouldn't wonder if he was a
German spy. They're all around everywheres, so the papers say."
This speech had a curious effect. The stoop in the Winslow
shoulders disappeared. Jed's tall form straightened. When he
spoke it was in a tone even more quiet and deliberate than usual,
but there could be no shadow of a doubt that he meant what he said.
"Excuse me, Mister," he drawled, "but there's one or two names that
just now I can't allow anybody to call me. 'German' is one and
'spy' is another. And you put 'em both together. I guess likely
you was only foolin', wasn't you?"
The workman looked surprised. Then he laughed. "Shall I call a
guard, sir?" he asked, addressing the lieutenant. "Better have him
searched, I should say. Nine chances to one he's got the plan in
The officer--he was very young--hesitated. Jed, who had not taken
his eyes from the face of the man who had called him a German spy,
"You haven't answered me yet," he drawled. "You was only foolin'
when you said that, wasn't you?"
The lieutenant, who may have felt that he had suddenly become a
negligible factor in the situation, essayed to take command of it.
"Shut up," he ordered, addressing Winslow. Then to the other,
"Yes, call a guard. We'll see if we can't get a straight answer
from this fellow. Hurry up."
The workman turned to obey. But, to his surprise, his path was
blocked by Jed, who quietly stepped in front of him.
"I guess likely, if you wasn't foolin', you'd better take back what
you called me," said Jed.
They looked at each other. The workman was tall and strong, but
Jed, now that he was standing erect, was a little taller. His
hands, which hung at his sides, were big and his arms long. And in
his mild blue eye there was a look of unshakable determination.
The workman saw that look and stood still.
"Hurry up!" repeated the lieutenant.
Just how the situation might have ended is uncertain. How it did
end was in an unexpected manner. From the rear of the trio, from
the top of the sandy ridge separating the beach from the meadow, a
new voice made itself heard.
"Well, Rayburn, what's the trouble?" it asked.
The lieutenant turned briskly, so, too, did Mr. Winslow and his
vis-a-vis. Standing at the top of the ridge was another officer.
He was standing there looking down upon them and, although he was
not smiling, Jed somehow conceived the idea that he was much amused
about something. Now he descended the ridge and walked toward the
group by the fire.
"Well, Rayburn, what is it?" he asked again.
The lieutenant saluted.
"Why--why, Major Grover," he stammered, "we--that is I found this
man here on the Government property and--and he won't explain what
he's doing here. I--I asked him if he had seen anything of the
plan and he won't answer. I was just going to put him under arrest
as--as a suspicious person when you came."
Major Grover turned and inspected Jed, and Jed, for his part,
inspected the major. He saw a well set-up man of perhaps thirty-
five, dark-haired, brown-eyed and with a closely clipped mustache
above a pleasant mouth and a firm chin. The inspection lasted a
minute or more. Then the major said:
"So you're a suspicious character, are you?"
Jed's hand moved across his chin in the gesture habitual with him.
"I never knew it afore," he drawled. "A suspicious character is an
important one, ain't it? I--er--I'm flattered."
"Humph! Well, you realize it now, I suppose?"
"Cal'late I'll have to, long's your--er--chummie there says it's
The expression of horror upon Lieutenant Rayburn's face at hearing
himself referred to as "chummie" to his superior officer was worth
"Oh, I say, sir!" he explained. The major paid no attention.
"What were you and this man," indicating the big carpenter,
"bristling up to each other for?" he inquired.
"Well, this guy he--" began the workman. Major Grover motioned him
to be quiet.
"I asked the other fellow," he said. Jed rubbed his chin once
"He said I was a German spy," he replied.
"No." The answer was prompt enough and emphatic enough. Major
Grover tugged at the corner of his mustache.
"Well, I--I admit you don't look it," he observed, dryly. "What's
your name and who are you?"
Jed told his name, his place of residence and his business.
"Is there any one about here who knows you, who could prove you
were who you say you are?"
Mr. Winslow considered. "Ye-es," he drawled. "Ye-es, I guess so.
'Thoph Mullett and 'Bial Hardy and Georgie T. Nickerson and
Squealer Wixon, they're all carpenterin' over here and they're from
Orham and know me. Then there's Bluey Batcheldor and Emulous Baker
and 'Gawpy'--I mean Freddie G.--and--"
"There, there! That's quite sufficient, thank you. Do you know
any of those men?" he asked, turning to the workman.
"Yes, sir, I guess I do."
"Very well. Go up and bring two of them here; not more than two,
Jed's accuser departed. Major Grover resumed his catechizing.
"What were you doing here?" he asked.
"Eh? Me? Oh, I was just picnicin', as you might say, along with a
little girl, daughter of a neighbor of mine. She wanted to see
where the soldiers was goin' to fly, so I borrowed Perez Ryder's
power dory and we came over. 'Twas gettin' along dinner time and I
built a fire so as to cook. . . . My soul!" with a gasp of
consternation, "I forgot all about that chowder. And now it's got
stone cold. Yes, sir!" dropping on his knees and removing the
cover of the kettle, "stone cold or next door to it. Ain't that a
Lieutenant Rayburn snorted in disgust. His superior officer,
however, merely smiled.
"Never mind the chowder just now," he said. "So you came over here
for a picnic, did you? Little late for picnics, isnt it?"
"Yes--ye-es," drawled Jed, "'tis kind of late, but 'twas a nice,
moderate day and Babbie she wanted to come, so--"
"Babbie? That's the little girl? . . . Oh," with a nod, "I
remember now. I saw a man with a little girl wandering about among
the buildings a little while ago. Was that you?"
"Ye-es, yes, that was me. . . . Tut, tut, tut! I'll have to warm
this chowder all up again now. That's too bad!"
Voices from behind the ridge announced the coming of the carpenter
and the two "identifiers." The latter, Mr. Emulous Baker and Mr.
"Squealer" Wixon, were on the broad grin.
"Yup, that's him," announced Mr. Wixon. "Hello, Shavin's! Got you
took up for a German spy, have they? That's a good one! haw, haw!"
"Do you know him?" asked the major.
"Know him?" Mr. Wixon guffawed again. "Known him all my life. He
lives over to Orham. Makes windmills and whirlagigs and such for
young-ones to play with. HE ain't any spy. His name's Jed
Winslow, but we always call him 'Shavin's,' 'count of his whittlin'
up so much good wood, you understand. Ain't that so, Shavin's?
Jed regarded Mr. Wixon mournfully.
"Um-hm," he admitted. "I guess likely you're right, Squealer."
"I bet you! There's only one Shavin's in Orham."
Jed sighed. "There's consider'ble many squealers," he drawled;
"some in sties and some runnin' loose."
Major Grover, who had appeared to enjoy this dialogue, interrupted
"That would seem to settle the spy question," he said. "You may
go, all three of you," he added, turning to the carpenters. They
departed, Jed's particular enemy muttering to himself and Mr. Wixon
laughing uproariously. The major once more addressed Jed.
"Where is the little girl you were with?" he asked.
"Eh? Oh, she's over yonder just 'round the p'int, sailin' a
shingle boat I made her. Shall I call her?"
"No, it isn't necessary. Mr. Winslow, I'm sorry to have put you to
all this trouble and to have cooled your--er--chowder. There is no
regulation against visitors to our reservation here just now,
although there will be, of course, later on. There is a rule
against building fires on the beach, but you broke that in
ignorance, I'm sure. The reason why you have been cross-questioned
to-day is a special one. A construction plan has been lost, as
Lieutenant Rayburn here informed you. It was on his desk in the
office and it has disappeared. It may have been stolen, of course,
or, as both windows were open, it may have blown away. You are
sure you haven't seen anything of it? Haven't seen any papers
"I'm sure it didn't blow away, sir," put in the lieutenant. "I'm
positive it was stolen. You see--"
He did not finish his sentence. The expression upon Jed's face
caused him to pause. Mr. Winslow's mouth and eyes were opening
wider and wider.
"Sho!" muttered Jed. "Sho, now! . . . 'Tain't possible that . . .
I snum if . . . Sho!"
"Well, what is it?" demanded both officers, practically in concert.
Jed did not reply. Instead he turned his head, put both hands to
his mouth and shouted "Babbie!" through them at the top of his
lungs. The third shout brought a faint, "Yes, Uncle Jed, I'm
"What are you calling her for?" asked Lieutenant Rayburn,
forgetting the presence of his superior officer in his anxious
impatience. Jed did not answer. He was kneeling beside his
jacket, which he had thrown upon the sand when he landed, and was
fumbling in the pockets. "Dear me! dear me!" he was muttering.
"I'm sartin they must be here. I KNOW I put 'em here because . . .
He was kneeling and holding the coat with one hand while he fumbled
in the pockets with the other. Unconsciously he had leaned
backward until he sat upon his heels. Now, with an odd expression
of mingled pain and relief, he reached into the hip pocket of his
trousers and produced a pair of spectacles. He smiled his slow,
"There!" he observed, "I found 'em my way--backwards. Anybody else
would have found 'em by looking for 'em; I lost 'em lookin' for 'em
and found 'em by sittin' on 'em. . . . Oh, here you are, Babbie!
Sakes alive, you're sort of dampish."
She was all of that. She had come running in answer to his call
and had the shingle boat hugged close to her. The water from it
had trickled down the front of her dress. Her shoes and stockings
were splashed with wet sand.
"Is dinner ready, Uncle Jed?" she asked, eagerly. Then becoming
aware that the two strange gentlemen standing by the fire were
really and truly "officer ones," she looked wide-eyed up at them
and uttered an involuntary "Oh!"
"Babbie," said Jed, "let me see that boat of yours a minute, will
Babbie obediently handed it over. Jed inspected it through his
spectacles. Then he pulled the paper sail from the sharpened
stick--the mast--unfolded it, looked at it, and then extended it at
arm's length toward Major Grover.
"That's your plan thing, ain't it?" he asked, calmly.
Both officers reached for the paper, but the younger, remembering
in time, drew back. The other took it, gave it a quick glance, and
then turned again to Mr. Winslow.
"Where did you get this?" he asked, crisply.
Jed shook his head.
"She gave it to me, this little girl here," he explained. She
wanted a sail for that shingle craft I whittled out for her.
Course if I'd had on my specs I presume likely I'd have noticed
that 'twas an out of the common sort of paper, but--I was wearin'
'em in my pants pocket just then."
"Where did you get it?" demanded Rayburn, addressing Barbara. The
child looked frightened. Major Grover smiled reassuringly at her
and she stammered a rather faint reply.
"I found it blowing around up on the little hill there," she said,
pointing. "It was blowing real hard and I had to run to catch it
before it got to the edge of the water. I'm--I--I'm sorry I gave
it to Uncle Jed for a sail. I didn't know--and--and he didn't
either," she added, loyally.
"That's all right, my dear. Of course you didn't know. Well,
Rayburn," turning to the lieutenant, "there's your plan. You see
it did blow away, after all. I think you owe this young lady
thanks that it is not out in mid-channel by this time. Take it
back to the office and see if the holes in it have spoiled its
usefulness to any extent."
The lieutenant, very red in the face, departed, bearing his
precious plan. Jed heaved a sigh of relief.
"There!" he exclaimed, "now I presume likely I can attend to my
"The important things of life, eh?" queried Major Grover.
"Um-hm. I don't know's there's anything much more important than
eatin'. It's a kind of expensive habit, but an awful hard one to
swear off of. . . . Hum. . . . Speakin' of important things, was
that plan of yours very important, Mr.--I mean Major?"
"Sho! . . . And I stuck it on a stick and set it afloat on a
shingle. I cal'late if Sam Hunniwell knew of that he'd say 'twas
characteristic. . . . Hum. . . . Sho! . . . I read once about a
feller that found where the great seal of England was hid and he
used it to crack nuts with. I guess likely that feller must have
been my great, great, great granddad."
Major Grover looked surprised.
"I've read that story," he said, "but I can't remember where."
Jed was stirring his chowder. "Eh?" he said, absently. "Where?
Oh, 'twas in--the--er--'Prince and the Pauper,' you know. Mark
Twain wrote it."
"That's so; I remember now. So you've read 'The Prince and the
"Um-hm. Read about everything Mark Twain ever wrote, I shouldn't
"Do you read a good deal?"
"Some. . . . There! Now we'll call that chowder done for the
second time, I guess. Set down and pass your plate, Babbie.
You'll set down and have a bite with us, won't you, Mr.--Major--I
snum I've forgot your name. You mustn't mind; I forget my own
"Grover. I am a major in the Engineers, stationed here for the
present to look after this construction work. No, thank you, I
should like to stay, but I must go back to my office."
"Dear, dear! That's too bad. Babbie and I would like first-rate
to have you stay. Wouldn't we, Babbie?"
"Yes, sir," she said. "And the chowder will be awf'ly good. Uncle
Jed's chowders always are."
"I'm sure of it." Major Grover's look of surprise was more evident
than ever as he gazed first at Barbara and then at Mr. Winslow.
His next question was addressed to the latter.
"So you are this young lady's uncle?" he inquired. It was Barbara
"Not my really uncle," she announced. "He's just my make-believe
uncle. He says he's my step-uncle 'cause he comes to our back
steps so much. But he's almost better than a real uncle," she
The major laughed heartily and said he was sure of it. He seemed
to find the pair hugely entertaining.
"Well, good-by," he said. "I hope you and your uncle will visit us
again soon. And I hope next time no one will take him for a spy."
Jed looked mournfully at the fire. "I've been took for a fool
often enough," he observed, "but a spy is a consider'ble worse
Grover looked at him. "I'm not so sure," he said. "I imagine both
guesses would be equally bad. Well, good-by. Don't forget to come
"Thank you, thank you. And when you're over to Orham drop in some
day and see Babbie and me. Anybody--the constable or anybody--will
tell you where I live."
Their visitor laughed, thanked him, and hurried away. Said Barbara
"He's a real nice officer one, isn't he, Uncle Jed? Petunia and I
During the rest of the afternoon they walked along the beach,
picked up shells, inspected "horse-foot" crabs, jelly fish and
"sand collars," and enjoyed themselves so thoroughly that it was
after four when they started for home. The early October dusk
settled down as they entered the winding channel between the sand
islands and the stretches of beaches. Barbara, wrapped in an old
coat of Captain Perez's, which, smelling strongly of fish, had been
found in a locker, seemed to be thinking very hard and, for a
wonder, saying little. At last she broke the silence.
"That Mr. Major officer man was 'stonished when I called you 'Uncle
Jed,'" she observed. "Why, do you s'pose?"
Jed whistled a few bars and peered over the side at the seaweed
marking the border of the narrow, shallow channel.
"I cal'late," he drawled, after a moment, "that he hadn't noticed
how much we look alike."
It was Barbara's turn to be astonished.
"But we DON'T look alike, Uncle Jed," she declared. "Not a single
Jed nodded. "No-o," he admitted. "I presume that's why he didn't
This explanation, which other people might have found somewhat
unsatisfactory, appeared to satisfy Miss Armstrong; at any rate she
accepted it without comment. There was another pause in the
conversation. Then she said:
"I don't know, after all, as I ought to call you 'Uncle Jed,' Uncle
"Eh? Why not, for the land sakes?"
"'Cause uncles make people cry in our family. I heard Mamma crying
last night, after she thought I was asleep. And I know she was
crying about Uncle Charlie. She cried when they took him away, you
know, and now she cries when he's coming home again. She cried
awf'ly when they took him away."
"Oh, she did, eh?"
"Yes. He used to live with Mamma and me at our house in
Middleford. He's awful nice, Uncle Charlie is, and Petunia and I
were very fond of him. And then they took him away and we haven't
seen him since."
"He's been sick, maybe."
"Perhaps so. But he must be well again now cause he's coming home;
Mamma said so."
"Um-hm. Well, I guess that was it. Probably he had to go to the--
the hospital or somewhere and your ma has been worried about him.
He's had an operation maybe. Lots of folks have operations
nowadays; it's got to be the fashion, seems so."
The child reflected.
"Do they have to have policemen come to take you to the hospital?"
"Eh? . . . Policemen?"
"Yes. 'Twas two big policemen took Uncle Charlie away the first
time. We were having supper, Mamma and he and I, and Nora went to
the door when the bell rang and the big policemen came and Uncle
Charlie went away with them. And Mamma cried so. And she wouldn't
tell me a bit about. . . . Oh! OH! I've told about the policemen!
Mamma said I mustn't ever, EVER tell anybody that. And--and I did!
Aghast at her own depravity, she began to sob. Jed tried to
comfort her and succeeded, after a fashion, at least she stopped
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