Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 5 out of 8
else he's gone, but it's all right, anyway."
"Oh, is it? You seem quite sure of it, young lady."
"I am. Everything Uncle Jed does is right. Sometimes you don't
think so at first, but it turns out that way. Mamma says he is
petunia--no, I mean peculiar but--but very--re-li-a-ble," the last
word conquered after a visible struggle. "She says if you do what
he tells you to you will be 'most always glad. I think 'always'
without any 'most,'" she added.
Major Grover laughed. "That's a reputation for infallibility worth
having," he observed.
Barbara did not know what he meant but she had no intention of
betraying that fact.
"Yes," she agreed. A moment later she suggested: "Don't you think
you'd better sit down? He told you to, you know."
"Great Scott, so he did! I must obey orders, mustn't I? But he
told you to talk--something or other to me, I think. What was it?"
"He told me to talk Petunia to you. There she is--up there."
The major regarded Petunia, who was seated upon the heap of mill-
sides, in a most haphazard and dissipated attitude.
"She is my oldest daughter," continued Barbara. "She's very
advanced for her years."
"Yes. And . . . oh, here comes Mamma!"
Mrs. Armstrong entered the shop. The major rose. Barbara did the
"I was just going to come in, Mamma," she explained, "but Uncle Jed
asked me to stay and talk to Mr.--I mean Major--Grover till he came
back. He's gone out, but he won't be long. Mamma, this is Mr.
Major Grover, the one who kept Uncle Jed from being spied, over at
the flying place that day when I found the plan paper and he made a
shingle boat sail out of it."
Ruth came forward. She had been walking along the edge of the
bluff, looking out over the tumbled gray and white water, and the
late October wind had tossed her hair and brought the color to her
cheeks. She put out her hand.
"Oh, yes," she said. "How do you do, Major Grover? I have heard a
great deal about you since the day of Babbie's picnic. I'm sure I
owe you an apology for the trouble my small daughter must have
caused that day."
She and the major shook hands. The latter expressed himself as
being very glad to meet Mrs. Armstrong. He looked as if he meant
"And no apologies are due, not from your side at least," he
declared. "If it had not been for your little girl our missing
plan might have been missing yet."
Fifteen minutes elapsed before the owner of the windmill shop
returned. When he did come hurrying up the bluff and in at the
back door, heated and out of breath, no one seemed to have missed
him greatly. Major Grover, who might reasonably have been expected
to show some irritation at his long wait, appeared quite oblivious
of the fact that he had waited at all. He and Barbara were seated
side by side upon a packing case, while Ruth occupied the chair.
When Jed came panting in it was Babbie who greeted him.
"Oh, Uncle Jed!" she exclaimed, "you just ought to have been here.
Mr.--I mean Major Grover has been telling Mamma and me about going
up in a--in a diggible balloon. It was awf'ly interesting. Wasn't
Her mother laughingly agreed that it was. Jed, whose hands were
full, deposited his burden upon another packing case. The said
burden consisted of no less than three motor car cranks. Grover
regarded them with surprise.
"Where in the world did you get those?" he demanded. "The last I
saw of you you were disappearing over that bank, apparently headed
out to sea. Do you dig those things up on the flats hereabouts,
Jed rubbed his chin. "Not's I know of," he replied. "I borrowed
these down at Joshua Rogers' garage."
"Rogers' garage?" repeated Grover. "That isn't near here, is it?"
"It is an eighth of a mile from here," declared Ruth. "And not
down by the beach, either. What do you mean, Jed?"
Jed was standing by the front window, peeping out. "Um-hm," he
said, musingly, "they're still there, the whole lot of 'em, waitin'
for you to come out, Major. . . . Hum . . . dear, dear! And
they're all doubled up now laughin' ahead of time. . . . Dear,
dear! this is a world of disappointment, sure enough."
"What ARE you talking about?" demanded Major Grover.
"JED!" exclaimed Ruth.
Barbara said nothing. She was accustomed to her Uncle Jed's
vagaries and knew that, in his own good time, an explanation would
be forthcoming. It came now.
"Why, you see," said Jed, "Phin Babbitt and the rest sendin' you
over here to find a crank was their little joke. They're enjoyin'
it now. The one thing needed to make 'em happy for life is to see
you come out of here empty-handed and so b'ilin' mad that you froth
over. If you come out smilin' and with what you came after, why--
why, then the cream of their joke has turned a little sour, as you
might say. See?"
Grover laughed. "Yes, I see that plain enough," he agreed. "And
I'm certainly obliged to you. I owed those fellows one. But what
I don't see is how you got those cranks by going down to the
"W-e-e-ll, if I'd gone straight up the road to Rogers's our jokin'
friends would have known that's where the cranks came from. I
wanted 'em to think they came from right here. So I went over the
bank back of the shop, where they couldn't see me, along the beach
till I got abreast of Joshua's and then up across lots. I came
back the way I went. I hope those things 'll fit, Major. One of
'em will, I guess likely."
The major laughed again. "I certainly am obliged to you, Mr.
Winslow," he said. "And I must say you took a lot of trouble on my
Jed sighed, although there was a little twinkle in his eye.
"'Twan't altogether on your account," he drawled. "I owed 'em one,
same as you did. I was the crank they sent you to."
Their visitor bade Barbara and her mother good afternoon, gathered
up his cranks and turned to the door.
"I'll step over and start the car," he said. "Then I'll come back
and return these things."
Jed shook his head. "I wouldn't," he said. "You may stop again
before you get back to Bayport. Rogers is in no hurry for 'em, he
said so. You take 'em along and fetch 'em in next time you're
over. I want you to call again anyhow and these cranks 'll make a
good excuse for doin' it," he added.
"Oh, I see. Yes, so they will. With that understanding I'll take
them along. Thanks again and good afternoon."
He hastened across the street. The two in the shop watched from
the window until the car started and moved out of sight. The group
by the telegraph office seemed excited about something; they
laughed no longer and there was considerable noisy argument.
Jed's lip twitched. "'The best laid plans of mice--and skunks,'"
he quoted, solemnly. "Hm! . . . That Major Grover seems like a
good sort of chap."
"I think he's awful nice," declared Babbie.
Ruth said nothing.
October passed and November came. The very last of the summer
cottages were closed. Orham settled down for its regular winter
hibernation. This year it was a bit less of a nap than usual
because of the activity at the aviation camp at East Harniss. The
swarm of carpenters, plumbers and mechanics was larger than ever
there now and the buildings were hastening toward completion, for
the first allotment of aviators, soldiers and recruits was due to
arrive in March. Major Grover was a busy and a worried man, but he
usually found time to drop in at the windmill shop for a moment or
two on each of his brief motor trips to Orham. Sometimes he found
Jed alone, more often Barbara was there also, and, semi-
occasionally, Ruth. The major and Charles Phillips met and
appeared to like each other. Charles was still on the rising tide
of local popularity. Even Gabe Bearse had a good word to say for
him among the many which he said concerning him. Phineas Babbitt,
however, continued to express dislike, or, at the most,
"I'm too old a bird," declared the vindictive little hardware
dealer, "to bow down afore a slick tongue and a good-lookin'
figgerhead. He's one of Sam Hunniwell's pets and that's enough for
me. Anybody that ties up to Sam Hunniwell must have a rotten plank
in 'em somewheres; give it time and 'twill come out."
Charles and Jed Winslow were by this time good friends. The young
man usually spent at least a few minutes of each day chatting with
his eccentric neighbor. They were becoming more intimate, at times
almost confidential, although Phillips, like every other friend or
acquaintance of "Shavings" Winslow, was inclined to patronize or
condescend a bit in his relations with the latter. No one took the
windmill maker altogether seriously, not even Ruth Armstrong,
although she perhaps came nearest to doing so. Charles would drop
in at the shop of a morning, in the interval between breakfast and
bank opening, and, perching on a pile of stock, or the workbench,
would discuss various things. He and Jed were alike in one
characteristic--each had the habit of absent-mindedness and lapsing
into silence in the middle of a conversation. Jed's lapses, of
course, were likely to occur in the middle of a sentence, even in
the middle of a word; with the younger man the symptoms were not so
"Well, Charlie," observed Mr. Winslow, on one occasion, a raw
November morning of the week before Thanksgiving, "how's the bank
Charles was a bit more silent that morning than he had been of
late. He appeared to be somewhat reflective, even somber. Jed, on
the lookout for just such symptoms, was trying to cheer him up.
"Oh, all right enough, I guess," was the reply.
"Like your work as well as ever, don't you?"
"Yes--oh, yes, I like it, what there is of it. It isn't what you'd
"No, I presume likely not, but I shouldn't wonder if they gave you
somethin' more responsible some of these days. They know you're up
to doin' it; Cap'n Sam's told me so more'n once."
Here occurred one of the lapses just mentioned. Phillips said
nothing for a minute or more. Then he asked: "What sort of a man
is Captain Hunniwell?"
"Eh? What sort of a man? You ought to know him yourself pretty
well by this time. You see more of him every day than I do."
"I don't mean as a business man or anything like that. I mean what
sort of man is he--er--inside? Is he always as good-natured as he
seems? How is he around his own house? With his daughter--or--or
things like that? You've known him all your life, you know, and I
"Um--ye-es--yes, I've known Sam for a good many years. He's square
all through, Sam is. Honest as the day is long and--"
Charles stirred uneasily. "I know that, of course," he interrupted.
"I wasn't questioning his honesty."
Jed's tender conscience registered a pang. The reference to
honesty had not been made with any ulterior motive.
"Sartin, sartin," he said; "I know you wasn't, Charlie, course I
know that. You wanted to know what sort of a man Sam was in his
family and such, I judge. Well, he's a mighty good father--almost
too good, I suppose likely some folks would say. He just bows down
and worships that daughter of his. Anything Maud wants that he can
give her she can have. And she wants a good deal, I will give in,"
he added, with his quiet drawl.
His caller did not speak. Jed whistled a few mournful bars and
sharpened a chisel on an oilstone.
"If John D. Vanderbilt should come around courtin' Maud," he went
on, after a moment, "I don't know as Sam would cal'late he was good
enough for her. Anyhow he'd feel that 'twas her that was doin' the
favor, not John D. . . . And I guess he'd be right; I don't know
any Vanderbilts, but I've known Maud since she was a baby. She's a--"
He paused, inspecting a nick in the chisel edge. Again Phillips
shifted in his seat on the edge of the workbench.
"Well?" he asked.
"Eh?" Jed looked up in mild inquiry. "What is it?" he said.
"That's what I want to know--what is it? You were talking about
Maud Hunniwell. You said you had known her since she was a baby
and that she was--something or other; that was as far as you got."
"Sho! . . . Hum. . . . Oh, yes, yes; I was goin' to say she was a
mighty nice girl, as nice as she is good-lookin' and lively.
There's a dozen young chaps in this county crazy about her this
minute, but there ain't any one of 'em good enough for her. . . .
Hello, you goin' so soon? 'Tisn't half-past nine yet, is it?"
Phillips did not answer. His somber expression was still in
evidence. Jed would have liked to cheer him up, but he did not
know how. However he made an attempt by changing the subject.
"How is Babbie this mornin'?" he asked.
"She's as lively as a cricket, of course. And full of excitement.
She's going to school next Monday, you know. You'll rather miss
her about the shop here, won't you?"
"Miss her! My land of Goshen! I shouldn't be surprised if I
follered her to school myself, like Mary's little lamb. Miss her!
"Well, so long. . . . What is it?"
"What is it you want to say? You look as if you wanted to say
"Do I? . . . Hum. . . . Oh, 'twasn't anything special. . . .
How's--er--how's your sister this mornin'?"
"Oh, she's well. I haven't seen her so well since--that is, for a
long time. You've made a great hit with Sis, Jed," he added, with
a laugh. "She can't say enough good things about you. Says you
are her one dependable in Orham, or something like that."
Jed's face turned a bright red. "Oh, sho, sho!" he protested, "she
mustn't talk that way. I haven't done anything."
"She says you have. Well, by-by."
He went away. It was some time before Jed resumed his chisel-
Later, when he came to reflect upon his conversation with young
Phillips there were one or two things about it which puzzled him.
They were still puzzling him when Maud Hunniwell came into the
shop. Maud, in a new fall suit, hat and fur, was a picture, a fact
of which she was as well aware as the next person. Jed, as always,
was very glad to see her.
"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "Talk about angels and--and they fly
in, so to speak. Real glad to see you, Maud. Sit down, sit down.
There's a chair 'round here somewheres. Now where--? Oh, yes, I'm
sittin' in it. Hum! That's one of the reasons why I didn't see
it, I presume likely. You take it and I'll fetch another from the
kitchen. No, I won't, I'll sit on the bench. . . . Hum . . . has
your pa got any money left in that bank of his?"
Miss Hunniwell was, naturally, surprised at the question.
"Why, I hope so," she said. "Did you think he hadn't?"
"W-e-e-ll, I didn't know. That dress of yours, and that new
bonnet, must have used up consider'ble, to say nothin' of that
woodchuck you've got 'round your neck. 'Tis a woodchuck, ain't
it?" he added, solemnly.
"Woodchuck! Well, I like that! If you knew what a silver fox
costs and how long I had to coax before I got this one you would be
more careful in your language," she declared, with a toss of her
Jed sighed. "That's the trouble with me," he observed. "I never
know enough to pick out the right things--or folks--to be careful
with. If I set out to be real toady and humble to what I think is
a peacock it generally turns out to be a Shanghai rooster. And the
same when it's t'other way about. It's a great gift to be able to
tell the real--er--what is it?--gold foxes from the woodchucks in
this life. I ain't got it and that's one of the two hundred
thousand reasons why I ain't rich."
He began to hum one of his doleful melodies. Maud laughed.
"Mercy, what a long sermon!" she exclaimed. "No wonder you sing a
hymn after it."
Jed sniffed. "Um . . . ye-es," he drawled. "If I was more
worldly-minded I'd take up a collection, probably. Well, how's all
the United States Army; the gold lace part of it, I mean?"
His visitor laughed again. "Those that I know seem to be very well
and happy," she replied.
"Um . . . yes . . . sartin. They'd be happy, naturally. How could
they help it, under the circumstances?"
He began picking over an assortment of small hardware, varying his
musical accompaniment by whistling instead of singing. His visitor
looked at him rather oddly.
"Jed," she observed, "you're changed."
Changed? I ain't changed my clothes, if that's what you mean.
Course if I'd know I was goin' to have bankers' daughters with
gold--er--muskrats 'round their necks come to see me I'd have
"Oh, I don't mean your clothes. I mean you--yourself--you've
"I've changed! How, for mercy sakes?"
"Oh, lots of ways. You pay the ladies compliments now. You
wouldn't have done that a year ago."
"Eh? Pay compliments? I'm afraid you're mistaken. Your pa says
I'm so absent-minded and forgetful that I don't pay some of my
bills till the folks I owe 'em to make proclamations they're goin'
to sue me; and other bills I pay two or three times over."
"Don't try to escape by dodging the subject. You HAVE changed in
the last few months. I think," holding the tail of the silver fox
before her face and regarding him over it, "I think you must be in
"Eh?" Jed looked positively frightened. "In love!"
"Yes. You're blushing now."
"Now, now, Maud, that ain't--that's sunburn."
"No, it's not sunburn. Who is it, Jed?" mischievously. "Is it the
pretty widow? Is it Mrs. Armstrong?"
A good handful of the hardware fell to the floor. Jed thankfully
scrambled down to pick it up. Miss Hunniwell, expressing
contrition at being indirectly responsible for the mishap, offered
to help him. He declined, of course, but in the little argument
which followed the dangerous and embarrassing topic was forgotten.
It was not until she was about to leave the shop that Maud again
mentioned the Armstrong name. And then, oddly enough, it was she,
not Mr. Winslow, who showed embarrassment.
"Jed," she said, "what do you suppose I came here for this morning?"
Jed's reply was surprisingly prompt.
"To show your new rig-out, of course," he said. "'Vanity of
vanities, all is vanity.' There, NOW I can take up a collection,
His visitor pouted. "If you do I shan't put anything in the box,"
she declared. "The idea of thinking that I came here just to show
off my new things. I've a good mind not to invite you at all now."
She doubtless expected apologies and questions as to what
invitation was meant. They might have been forthcoming had not the
windmill maker been engaged just at that moment in gazing
abstractedly at the door of the little stove which heated, or was
intended to heat, the workshop. He did not appear to have heard
her remark, so the young lady repeated it. Still he paid no
attention. Miss Maud, having inherited a goodly share of the
Hunniwell disposition, demanded an explanation.
"What in the world is the matter with you?" she asked. "Why are
you staring at that stove?"
Jed started and came to life. "Eh?" he exclaimed. "Oh, I was
thinkin' what an everlastin' nuisance 'twas--the stove, I mean. It
needs more wood about every five minutes in the day, seems to--
needs it now, that's what made me think of it. I was just
wonderin' if 'twouldn't be a good notion to set it up out in the
"Out in the yard? Put the stove out in the yard? For goodness'
sake, what for?"
Jed clasped his knee in his hand and swung his foot back and forth.
"Oh" he drawled, "if 'twas out in the yard I shouldn't know whether
it needed wood or not, so 'twouldn't be all the time botherin' me."
However, he rose and replenished the stove. Miss Hunniwell
laughed. Then she said: "Jed, you don't deserve it, because you
didn't hear me when I first dropped the hint, but I came here
with an invitation for you. Pa and I expect you to eat your
Thanksgiving dinner with us."
If she had asked him to eat it in jail Jed could not have been more
"Now--now, Maud," he stammered, "I--I'm ever so much obliged to
you, but I--I don't see how--"
"Nonsense! I see how perfectly well. You always act just this way
whenever I invite you to anything. You're not afraid of Pa or me,
"W-e-e-ll, well, I ain't afraid of your Pa 's I know of, but of
course, when such a fascinatin' young woman as you comes along, all
rigged up to kill, why, it's natural that an old single relic like
me should get kind of nervous."
Maud clasped her hands. "Oh," she cried, "there's another
compliment! You HAVE changed, Jed. I'm going to ask Father what
This time Jed was really alarmed. "Now, now, now," he protested,
"don't go tell your Pa yarns about me. He'll come in here and
pester me to death. You know what a tease he is when he gets
started. Don't, Maud, don't."
She looked hugely delighted at the prospect. Her eyes sparkled
with mischief. "I certainly shall tell him," she declared, "unless
you promise to eat with us on Thanksgiving Day. Oh, come along,
don't be so silly. You've eaten at our house hundreds of times."
This was a slight exaggeration. Jed had eaten there possibly five
times in the last five years. He hesitated.
"Ain't goin' to be any other company, is there?" he asked, after a
moment. It was now that Maud showed her first symptoms of
"Why," she said, twirling the fox tail and looking at the floor,
"there may be one or two more. I thought--I mean Pa and I thought
perhaps we might invite Mrs. Armstrong and Babbie. You know them,
Jed, so they won't be like strangers. And Pa thinks Mrs. Armstrong
is a very nice lady, a real addition to the town; I've heard him
say so often," she added, earnestly.
Jed was silent. She looked up at him from under the brim of the
"You wouldn't mind them, Jed, would you?" she asked. "They
wouldn't be like strangers, you know."
Jed rubbed his chin. "I--I don't know's I would," he mused,
"always providin' they didn't mind me. But I don't cal'late Mrs.
Ruth--Mrs. Armstrong, I mean--would want to leave Charlie to home
alone on Thanksgivin' Day. If she took Babbie, you know, there
wouldn't be anybody left to keep him company."
Miss Hunniwell twirled the fox tail in an opposite direction. "Oh,
of course," she said, with elaborate carelessness, "we should
invite Mrs. Armstrong's brother if we invited her. Of course we
should HAVE to do that."
Jed nodded, but he made no comment. His visitor watched him from
beneath the hat brim.
"You--you haven't any objection to Mr. Phillips, have you?" she
"Eh? Objections? To Charlie? Oh, no, no."
"You like him, don't you? Father likes him very much."
"Yes, indeed; like him fust-rate. All hands like Charlie, the
There was a perceptible interval before Miss Hunniwell spoke again.
"What do you mean by that?" she asked.
"Eh? Oh, nothin', except that, accordin' to your dad, he's a
'specially good hand at waitin' on the women and girls up at the
bank, polite and nice to 'em, you know. He's even made a hit with
old Melissy Busteed, and it takes a regular feller to do that."
He would not promise to appear at the Hunniwell home on
Thanksgiving, but he did agree to think it over. Maud had to be
content with that. However, she declared that she should take his
acceptance for granted.
"We shall set a place for you," she said. "Of course you'll come.
It will be such a nice party, you and Pa and Mrs. Armstrong and I
and little Babbie. Oh, we'll have great fun, see if we don't."
"And Charlie; you're leavin' out Charlie," Jed reminded her.
"Oh, yes, so I was. Well, I suppose he'll come, too. Good-by."
She skipped away, waving him a farewell with the tail of the silver
fox. Jed, gazing after her, rubbed his chin reflectively.
His indecision concerning the acceptance of the Hunniwell
invitation lasted until the day before Thanksgiving. Then Barbara
added her persuasions to those of Captain Sam and his daughter and
he gave in.
"If you don't go, Uncle Jed," asserted Babbie, "we're all goin' to
be awfully disappointed, 'specially me and Petunia--and Mamma--and
"Oh, then the rest of you folks won't care, I presume likely?"
Babbie thought it over. "Why, there aren't any more of us," she
said. "Oh, I see! You're joking again, aren't you, Uncle Jed?
'Most everybody I know laughs when they make jokes, but you don't,
you look as if you were going to cry. That's why I don't laugh
sometimes right off," she explained, politely. "If you was really
feeling so bad it wouldn't be nice to laugh, you know."
Jed laughed then, himself. "So Petunia would feel bad if I didn't
go to Sam's, would she?" he inquired.
"Yes," solemnly. "She told me she shouldn't eat one single thing
if you didn't go. She's a very high-strung child."
That settled it. Jed argued that Petunia must on no account be
strung higher than she was and consented to dine at the
The day before Thanksgiving brought another visitor to the windmill
shop, one as welcome as he was unexpected. Jed, hearing the door
to the stock room open, shouted "Come in" from his seat at the
workbench in the inner room. When his summons was obeyed he looked
up to see a khaki-clad figure advancing with extended hand.
"Why, hello, Major!" he exclaimed. "I'm real glad to-- Eh,
'tain't Major Grover, is it? Who-- Why, Leander Babbitt! Well,
Young Babbitt was straight and square-shouldered and brown.
Military training and life at Camp Devens had wrought the miracle
in his case which it works in so many. Jed found it hard to
recognize the stoop-shouldered son of the hardware dealer in the
spruce young soldier before him. When he complimented Leander upon
the improvement the latter disclaimed any credit.
"Thank the drill master second and yourself first, Jed," he said.
"They'll make a man of a fellow up there at Ayer if he'll give 'em
half a chance. Probably I shouldn't have had the chance if it
hadn't been for you. You were the one who really put me up to
Jed refused to listen. "Can't make a man out of a punkinhead," he
asserted. "If you hadn't had the right stuff in you, Leander,
drill masters nor nobody else could have fetched it out. How do
you like belongin' to Uncle Sam?"
Young Babbitt liked it and said so. "I feel as if I were doing
something at last," he said; "as if I was part of the biggest thing
in the world. Course I'm only a mighty little part, but, after
all, it's something."
Jed nodded, gravely. "You bet it's somethin'," he argued. "It's a
lot, a whole lot. I only wish I was standin' alongside of you in
the ranks, Leander. . . . I'd be a sight, though, wouldn't I?" he
added, his lip twitching in the fleeting smile. "What do you think
the Commodore, or General, or whoever 'tis bosses things at the
camp, would say when he saw me? He'd think the flagpole had grown
feet, and was walkin' round, I cal'late."
He asked his young friend what reception he met with upon his
return home. Leander smiled ruefully.
"My step-mother seemed glad enough to see me," he said. "She and I
had some long talks on the subject and I think she doesn't blame me
much for going into the service. I told her the whole story and,
down in her heart, I believe she thinks I did right."
Jed nodded. "Don't see how she could help it," he said. "How does
your dad take it?"
Leander hesitated. "Well," he said, "you know Father. He doesn't
change his mind easily. He and I didn't get as close together as I
wish we could. And it wasn't my fault that we didn't," he added,
Jed understood. He had known Phineas Babbitt for many years and he
knew the little man's hard, implacable disposition and the violence
of his prejudices.
"Um-hm," he said. "All the same, Leander, I believe your father
thinks more of you than he does of anything else on earth."
"I shouldn't wonder if you was right, Jed. But on the other hand
I'm afraid he and I will never be the same after I come back from
the war--always providing I do come back, of course."
"Sshh, sshh! Don't talk that way. Course you'll come back."
"You never can tell. However, if I knew I wasn't going to, it
wouldn't make any difference in my feelings about going. I'm glad
I enlisted and I'm mighty thankful to you for backing me up in it.
I shan't forget it, Jed."
"Sho, sho! It's easy to tell other folks what to do. That's how
the Kaiser earns his salary; only he gives advice to the Almighty,
and I ain't got as far along as that yet."
They discussed the war in general and by sections. Just before he
left, young Babbitt said:
"Jed, there is one thing that worries me a little in connection
with Father. He was bitter against the war before we went into it
and before he and Cap'n Sam Hunniwell had their string of rows.
Since then and since I enlisted he has been worse than ever. The
things he says against the government and against the country make
ME want to lick him--and I'm his own son. I am really scared for
fear he'll get himself jailed for being a traitor or something of
Mr. Winslow asked if Phineas' feeling against Captain Hunniwell had
softened at all. Leander's reply was a vigorous negative.
"Not a bit," he declared. "He hates the cap'n worse than ever, if
that's possible, and he'll do him some bad turn some day, if he
can, I'm afraid. You must think it's queer my speaking this way of
my own father," he added. "Well, I don't to any one else. Somehow
a fellow always feels as if he could say just what he thinks to
you, Jed Winslow. I feel that way, anyhow."
He and Jed shook hands at the door in the early November twilight.
Leander was to eat his Thanksgiving dinner at home and then leave
for camp on the afternoon train.
"Well, good-by," he said.
Jed seemed loath to relinquish the handclasp.
"Oh, don't say good-by; it's just 'See you later,'" he replied.
Leander smiled. "Of course. Well, then, see you later, Jed.
We'll write once in a while; eh?"
Jed promised. The young fellow strode off into the dusk. Somehow,
with his square shoulders and his tanned, resolute country face, he
seemed to typify Young America setting cheerfully forth to face--
anything--that Honor and Decency may still be more than empty words
in this world of ours.
The Hunniwell Thanksgiving dinner was an entire success. Even
Captain Sam himself was forced to admit it, although he professed
to do so with reluctance.
"Yes," he said, with an elaborate wink in the direction of his
guests, "it's a pretty good dinner, considerin' everything. Of
course 'tain't what a feller used to get down at Sam Coy's eatin'-
house on Atlantic Avenue, but it's pretty good--as I say, when
His daughter was highly indignant. "Do you mean to say that this
dinner isn't as good as those you used to get at that Boston
restaurant, Pa?" she demanded. "Don't you dare say such a thing."
Her father tugged at his beard and looked tremendously solemn.
"Well," he observed, "as a boy I was brought up to always speak the
truth and I've tried to live up to my early trainin'. Speakin' as
a truthful man, then, I'm obliged to say that this dinner ain't
like those I used to get at Sam Coy's."
Ruth put in a word. "Well, then, Captain Hunniwell," she said, "I
think the restaurant you refer to must be one of the best in the
Before the captain could reply, Maud did it for him.
"Mrs. Armstrong," she cautioned, "you mustn't take my father too
seriously. He dearly loves to catch people with what he hopes is a
joke. For a minute he caught even me this time, but I see through
him now. He didn't say the dinner at his precious restaurant was
BETTER than this one, he said it wasn't like it, that's all. Which
is probably true," she added, with withering scorn. "But what I
should like to know is what he means by his 'everything
Her father's gravity was unshaken. "Well," he said, "all I meant
was that this was a pretty good dinner, considerin' who was
responsible for gettin' it up."
"I see, I see. Mrs. Ellis, our housekeeper, and I are responsible,
Mrs. Armstrong, so you understand now who he is shooting at. Very
well, Pa," she added, calmly, "the rest of us will have our dessert
now. You can get yours at Sam Coy's."
The dessert was mince pie and a Boston frozen pudding, the latter
an especial favorite of Captain Sam's. He capitulated at once.
"'Kamerad! Kamerad!'" he cried, holding up both hands. "That's
what the Germans say when they surrender, ain't it? I give in,
Maud. You can shoot me against a stone wall, if you want to, only
give me my frozen puddin' first. It ain't so much that I like the
puddin'," he explained to Mrs. Armstrong, "but I never can make out
whether it's flavored with tansy or spearmint. Maud won't tell me,
but I know it's somethin' old-fashioned and reminds me of my
grandmother; or, maybe, it's my grandfather; come to think, I guess
Ruth grasped his meaning later when she tasted the pudding and
found it flavored with New England rum.
After dinner they adjourned to the parlor. Maud, being coaxed by
her adoring father, played the piano. Then she sang. Then they
all sang, all except Jed and the captain, that is. The latter
declared that his voice had mildewed in the damp weather they had
been having lately, and Jed excused himself on the ground that he
had been warned not to sing because it was not healthy.
Barbara was surprised and shocked.
"Why, Uncle Jed!" she cried. "You sing EVER so much. I heard you
singing this morning."
Jed nodded. "Ye-es," he drawled, "but I was alone then and I'm
liable to take chances with my own health. Bluey Batcheldor was in
the shop last week, though, when I was tunin' up and it disagreed
"I don't believe it, Uncle Jed," with righteous indignation. "How
do you know it did?"
"'Cause he said so. He listened a spell, and then said I made him
sick, so I took his word for it."
Captain Sam laughed uproariously. "You must be pretty bad then,
Jed," he declared. "Anybody who disagrees with Bluey Batcheldor
must be pretty nigh the limit."
Jed nodded. "Um-hm," he said, reflectively, "pretty nigh, but not
quite. Always seemed to me the real limit was anybody who agreed
So Jed, with Babbie on his knee, sat in the corner of the bay
window looking out on the street, while Mrs. Armstrong and her
brother and Miss Hunniwell played and sang and the captain
applauded vigorously and loudly demanded more. After a time Ruth
left the group at the piano and joined Jed and her daughter by the
window. Captain Hunniwell came a few minutes later.
"Make a good-lookin' couple, don't they?" he whispered, bending
down, and with a jerk of his head in the direction of the
musicians. "Your brother's a fine-lookin' young chap, Mrs.
Armstrong. And he acts as well as he looks. Don't know when I've
taken such a shine to a young feller as I have to him. Yes, ma'am,
they make a good-lookin' couple, even if one of 'em is my
The speech was made without the slightest thought or suggestion of
anything but delighted admiration and parental affection.
Nevertheless, Ruth, to whom it was made, started slightly, and,
turning, regarded the pair at the piano. Maud was fingering the
pages of a book of college songs and looking smilingly up into the
face of Charles Phillips, who was looking down into hers. There
was, apparently, nothing in the picture--a pretty one, by the way--
to cause Mrs. Armstrong to gaze so fixedly or to bring the slight
frown to her forehead. After a moment she turned toward Jed
Winslow. Their eyes met and in his she saw the same startled hint
of wonder, of possible trouble, she knew he must see in hers. Then
they both looked away.
Captain Hunniwell prated proudly on, chanting praises of his
daughter's capabilities and talents, as he did to any one who would
listen, and varying the monotony with occasional references to the
wonderful manner in which young Phillips had "taken hold" at the
bank. Ruth nodded and murmured something from time to time, but to
any one less engrossed by his subject than the captain it would
have been evident she was paying little attention. Jed, who was
being entertained by Babbie and Petunia, was absently pretending to
be much interested in a fairy story which the former was
improvising--she called the process "making up as I go along"--for
his benefit. Suddenly he leaned forward and spoke.
"Sam," he said, "there's somebody comin' up the walk. I didn't get
a good sight of him, but it ain't anybody that lives here in Orham
"Eh? That so?" demanded the captain. "How do you know 'tain't if
you didn't see him?"
"'Cause he's comin' to the front door," replied Mr. Winslow, with
unanswerable logic. "There he is now, comin' out from astern of
that lilac bush. Soldier, ain't he?"
It was Ruth Armstrong who first recognized the visitor. "Why," she
exclaimed, "it is Major Grover, isn't it?"
The major it was, and a moment later Captain Hunniwell ushered him
into the room. He had come to Orham on an errand, he explained,
and had stopped at the windmill shop to see Mr. Winslow. Finding
the latter out, he had taken the liberty of following him to the
"I'm going to stay but a moment, Captain Hunniwell," he went on.
"I wanted to talk with Winslow on a--well, on a business matter.
Of course I won't do it now but perhaps we can arrange a time
convenient for us both when I can."
"Don't cal'late there'll be much trouble about that," observed the
captain, with a chuckle. "Jed generally has time convenient for
'most everybody; eh, Jed?"
Jed nodded. "Um-hm," he drawled, "for everybody but Gab Bearse."
"So you and Jed are goin' to talk business, eh?" queried Captain
Sam, much amused at the idea. "Figgerin' to have him rig up
windmills to drive those flyin' machines of yours, Major?"
"Not exactly. My business was of another kind, and probably not
very important, at that. I shall probably be over here again on
Monday, Winslow. Can you see me then?"
Jed rubbed his chin. "Ye-es," he said, "I'll be on private
exhibition to my friends all day. And children half price," he
added, giving Babbie a hug. "But say, Major, how in the world did
you locate me to-day? How did you know I was over here to Sam's?
I never told you I was comin', I'll swear to that."
For some reason or other Major Grover seemed just a little
"Why no," he said, stammering a trifle, "you didn't tell me, but
some one did. Now, who--"
"I think I told you, Major," put in Ruth Armstrong. "Last evening,
when you called to--to return Charlie's umbrella. I told you we
were to dine here to-day and that Jed--Mr. Winslow--was to dine
with us. Don't you remember?"
Grover remembered perfectly then, of course. He hastened to
explain that, having borrowed the umbrella of Charles Phillips the
previous week, he had dropped in on his next visit to Orham to
"Humph!" he said, "you never came to see me last night. When you
was as close aboard as next door seems's if you might."
The major laughed. "Well, you'll have to admit that I came to-
day," he said.
"Yes," put in Captain Sam, "and, now you are here, you're goin' to
stay a spell. Oh, yes, you are, too. Uncle Sam don't need you so
hard that he can't let you have an hour or so off on Thanksgiving
Day. Maud, why in time didn't we think to have Major Grover here
for dinner along with the rest of the folks? Say, couldn't you eat
a plate of frozen puddin' right this minute? We've got some on
hand that tastes of my grandfather, and we want to get rid of it."
Their caller laughingly declined the frozen pudding, but he was
prevailed upon to remain and hear Miss Hunniwell play. So Maud
played and Charles turned the music for her, and Major Grover
listened and talked with Ruth Armstrong in the intervals between
selections. And Jed and Barbara chatted and Captain Sam beamed
good humor upon every one. It was a very pleasant, happy
afternoon. War and suffering and heartache and trouble seemed a
long, long way off.
On the way back to the shop in the chill November dusk Grover told
Jed a little of what he had called to discuss with him. If Jed's
mind had been of the super-critical type it might have deemed the
subject of scarcely sufficient importance to warrant the major's
pursuing him to the Hunniwells'. It was simply the subject of
Phineas Babbitt and the latter's anti-war utterances and surmised
"You see," explained Grover, "some one evidently has reported the
old chap to the authorities as a suspicious person. The
government, I imagine, isn't keen on sending a special investigator
down here, so they have asked me to look into the matter. I don't
know much about Babbitt, but I thought you might. Is he disloyal,
do you think?"
Jed hesitated. Things the hardware dealer had said had been
reported to him, of course; but gossip--particularly the Bearse
brand of gossip--was not the most reliable of evidence. Then he
remembered his own recent conversation with Leander and the
latter's expressed fear that his father might get into trouble.
Jed determined, for the son's sake, not to bring that trouble
"Well, Major," he answered, "I shouldn't want to say that he was.
Phineas talks awful foolish sometimes, but I shouldn't wonder if
that was his hot head and bull temper as much as anything else. As
to whether he's anything more than foolish or not, course I
couldn't say sartin, but I don't think he's too desperate to be
runnin' loose. I cal'late he won't put any bombs underneath the
town hall or anything of that sort. Phin and his kind remind me
some of that new kind of balloon you was tellin' me they'd probably
have over to your camp when 'twas done, that--er--er--dirigible;
wasn't that what you called it?"
"Yes. But why does Babbitt remind you of a dirigible balloon? I
don't see the connection."
"Don't you? Well, seems's if I did. Phin fills himself up with
the gas he gets from his Anarchist papers and magazines--the 'rich
man's war' and all the rest of it--and goes up in the air and when
he's up in the air he's kind of hard to handle. That's what you
told me about the balloon, if I recollect."
Grover laughed heartily. "Then the best thing to do is to keep him
on the ground, I should say," he observed.
Jed rubbed his chin. "Um-hm," he drawled, "but shuttin' off his
gas supply might help some. I don't think I'd worry about him
much, if I was you."
They separated at the front gate before the shop, where the rows of
empty posts, from which the mills and vanes had all been removed,
stood as gaunt reminders of the vanished summer. Major Grover
refused Jed's invitation to come in and have a smoke.
"No, thank you," he said, "not this evening. I'll wait here a
moment and say good-night to the Armstrongs and Phillips and then I
must be on my way to the camp. . . . Why, what's the matter?
His companion was searching in his various pockets. The search
completed, he proceeded to look himself over, so to speak, taking
off his hat and looking at that, lifting a hand and then a foot and
looking at them, and all with a puzzled, far-away expression. When
Grover repeated his question he seemed to hear it for the first
time and then not very clearly.
"Eh?" he drawled. "Oh, why--er--yes, there IS somethin' wrong.
That is to say, there ain't, and that's the wrong part of it. I
don't seem to have forgotten anything, that's the trouble."
His friend burst out laughing.
"I should scarcely call that a trouble," he said.
"Shouldn't you? No, I presume likely you wouldn't. But I never go
anywhere without forgettin' somethin', forgettin' to say somethin'
or do somethin' or bring somethin'. Never did in all my life. Now
here I am home again and I can't remember that I've forgot a single
thing. . . . Hum. . . . Well, I declare! I wonder what it means.
Maybe, it's a sign somethin's goin' to happen."
He said good night absent-mindedly. Grover laughed and walked away
to meet Ruth and her brother, who, with Barbara dancing ahead, were
coming along the sidewalk. He had gone but a little way when he
heard Mr. Winslow shouting his name.
"Major!" shouted Jed. "Major Grover! It's all right, Major, I
feel better now. I've found it. 'Twas the key. I left it in the
front door lock here when I went away this mornin'. I guess
there's nothin' unnatural about me, after all; guess nothin's goin'
But something did and almost immediately. Jed, entering the outer
shop, closed the door and blundered on through that apartment and
the little shop adjoining until he came to his living-room beyond.
Then he fumbled about in the darkness for a lamp and matchbox. He
found the latter first, on the table where the lamp should have
been. Lighting one of the matches, he then found the lamp on a
chair directly in front of the door, where he had put it before
going away that morning, his idea in so doing being that it would
thus be easier to locate when he returned at night. Thanking his
lucky stars that he had not upset both chair and lamp in his
prowlings, Mr. Winslow lighted the latter. Then, with it in his
hand, he turned, to see the very man he and Major Grover had just
been discussing seated in the rocker in the corner of the room and
glaring at him malevolently.
Naturally, Jed was surprised. Naturally, also, being himself, he
showed his surprise in his own peculiar way. He did not start
violently, nor utter an exclamation. Instead he stood stock still,
returning Phineas Babbitt's glare with a steady, unwinking gaze.
It was the hardware dealer who spoke first. And that, by the way,
was precisely what he had not meant to do.
"Yes," he observed, with caustic sarcasm, "it's me. You needn't
stand there blinkin' like a fool any longer, Shavin's. It's me."
Jed set the lamp upon the table. He drew a long breath, apparently
"Why, so 'tis," he said, solemnly. "When I first saw you sittin'
there, Phin, I had a suspicion 'twas you, but the longer I looked
the more I thought 'twas the President come to call. Do you know,"
he added, confidentially, "if you didn't have any whiskers and he
looked like you you'd be the very image of him."
This interesting piece of information was not received with
enthusiasm. Mr. Babbitt's sense of humor was not acutely
"Never mind the funny business, Shavin's," he snapped. "I didn't
come here to be funny to-night. Do you know why I came here to
talk to you?"
Jed pulled forward a chair and sat down.
"I presume likely you came here because you found the door
unlocked, Phin," he said.
"I didn't say HOW I came to come, but WHY I came. I knew where you
was this afternoon. I see you when you left there and I had a good
mind to cross over and say what I had to say before the whole crew,
Sam Hunniwell, and his stuck-up rattle-head of a daughter, and that
Armstrong bunch that think themselves so uppish, and all of 'em."
Mr. Winslow stirred uneasily in his chair. "Now, Phin," he
protested, "seems to me--"
But Babbitt was too excited to heed. His little eyes snapped and
his bristling beard quivered.
"You hold your horses, Shavin's," he ordered. "I didn't come here
to listen to you. I came because I had somethin' to say and when
I've said it I'm goin' and goin' quick. My boy's been home. You
knew that, I suppose, didn't you?"
Jed nodded. "Yes," he said, "I knew Leander'd come home for
"Oh, you did! He came here to this shop to see you, maybe? Humph!
I'll bet he did, the poor fool!"
Again Jed shifted his position. His hands clasped about his knee
and his foot lifted from the floor.
"There, there, Phin," he said gently; "after all, he's your only
son, you know."
"I know it. But he's a fool just the same."
"Now, Phin! The boy'll be goin' to war pretty soon, you know, and--"
Babbitt sprang to his feet. His chin trembled so that he could
"Shut up!" he snarled. "Don't let me hear you say that again, Jed
Winslow. Who sent him to war? Who filled his head full of rubbish
about patriotism, and duty to the country, and all the rest of the
rotten Wall Street stuff? Who put my boy up to enlistin', Jed
Jed's foot swung slowly back and forth.
"Well, Phin," he drawled, "to be real honest, I think he put
himself up to it."
"You're a liar. YOU did it."
Jed sighed. "Did Leander tell you I did?" he asked.
"No," mockingly, "Leander didn't tell me. You and Sam Hunniwell
and the rest of the gang have fixed him so he don't come to his
father to tell things any longer. But he told his step-mother this
very mornin' and she told me. You was the one that advised him to
enlist, he said. Good Lord; think of it! He don't go to his own
father for advice; he goes to the town jackass instead, the critter
that spends his time whittlin' out young-one's playthings. My Lord
He spat on the floor to emphasize his disgust. There was an
interval of silence before Jed answered.
"Well, Phin," he said, slowly, "you're right, in a way. Leander
and I have always been pretty good friends and he's been in the
habit of droppin' in here to talk things over with me. When he
came to me to ask what he ought to do about enlistin', asked what
I'd do if I was he, I told him; that's all there was to it."
Babbitt extended a shaking forefinger.
"Yes, and you told him to go to war. Don't lie out of it now; you
know you did."
"Um . . . yes . . . I did."
"You did? You DID? And you have the cheek to own up to it right
afore my face."
Jed's hand stroked his chin. "W-e-e-ll," he drawled, "you just
ordered me not to lie out of it, you know. Leander asked me right
up and down if I wouldn't enlist if I was in his position.
Naturally, I said I would."
"Yes, you did. And you knew all the time how I felt about it, you
Jed's foot slowly sank to the floor and just as slowly he hoisted
himself from the chair.
"Phin," he said, with deliberate mildness, "is there anything else
you'd like to ask me? 'Cause if there isn't, maybe you'd better
"You sneakin' coward!"
"Er--er--now--now, Phin, you didn't understand. I said 'ask' me,
not 'call' me."
"No, I didn't come here to ask you anything. I came here and
waited here so's to be able to tell you somethin'. And that is
that I know now that you're responsible for my son--my only boy,
the boy I'd depended on--and--and--"
The fierce little man was, for the moment, close to breaking down.
Jed's heart softened; he felt almost conscience-stricken.
"I'm sorry for you, Phineas," he said. "I know how hard it must be
for you. Leander realized it, too. He--"
"Shut up! Shavin's, you listen to me. I don't forget. All my
life I've never forgot. And I ain't never missed gettin' square.
I can wait, just as I waited here in the dark over an hour so's to
say this to you. I'll get square with you just as I'll get square
with Sam Hunniwell. . . . That's all. . . . That's all. . . .
He stamped from the room and Jed heard him stumbling through the
littered darkness of the shops on his way to the front door,
kicking at the obstacles he tripped over and swearing and sobbing
as he went. It was ridiculous enough, of course, but Jed did not
feel like smiling. The bitterness of the little man's final curse
was not humorous. Neither was the heartbreak in his tone when he
spoke of his boy. Jed felt no self-reproach; he had advised
Leander just as he might have advised his own son had his life been
like other men's lives, normal men who had married and possessed
sons. He had no sympathy for Phineas Babbitt's vindictive hatred
of all those more fortunate than he or who opposed him, or for his
silly and selfish ideas concerning the war. But he did pity him;
he pitied him profoundly.
Babbitt had left the front door open in his emotional departure and
Jed followed to close it. Before doing so he stepped out into the
It was pitch dark now and still. He could hear the footsteps of
his recent visitor pounding up the road, and the splashy grumble of
the surf on the bar was unusually audible. He stood for a moment
looking up at the black sky, with the few stars shining between the
cloud blotches. Then he turned and looked at the little house next
The windows of the sitting-room were alight and the shades drawn.
At one window he saw Charles Phillips' silhouette; he was reading,
apparently. Across the other shade Ruth's dainty profile came and
went. Jed looked and looked. He saw her turn and speak to some
one. Then another shadow crossed the window, the shadow of Major
Grover. Evidently the major had not gone home at once as he had
told Jed he intended doing, plainly he had been persuaded to enter
the Armstrong house and make Charlie and his sister a short call.
This was Jed's estimate of the situation, his sole speculation
concerning it and its probabilities.
And yet Mr. Gabe Bearse, had he seen the major's shadow upon the
Armstrong window curtain, might have speculated much.
The pity which Jed felt for Phineas Babbitt caused him to keep
silent concerning his Thanksgiving evening interview with the
hardware dealer. At first he was inclined to tell Major Grover of
Babbitt's expressions concerning the war and his son's enlistment.
After reflection, however, he decided not to do so. The Winslow
charity was wide enough to cover a multitude of other people's sins
and it covered those of Phineas. The latter was to be pitied; as
to fearing him, as a consequence of his threat to "get square," Jed
never thought of such a thing. If he felt any anxiety at all in
the matter it was a trifling uneasiness because his friends, the
Hunniwells and the Armstrongs, were included in the threat. But he
was inclined to consider Mr. Babbitt's wrath as he had once
estimated the speech of a certain Ostable candidate for political
office, to be "like a tumbler of plain sody water, mostly fizz and
froth and nothin' very substantial or fillin'." He did not tell
Grover of the interview in the shop; he told no one, not even Ruth
The--to him, at least--delightful friendship and intimacy between
himself and his friends and tenants continued. He and Charlie
Phillips came to know each other better and better. Charles was
now almost as confidential concerning his personal affairs as his
sister had been and continued to be.
"It's surprising how I come in here and tell you all my private
business, Jed," he said, laughing. "I don't go about shouting my
joys and troubles in everybody's ear like this. Why do I do it to
Jed stopped a dismal whistle in the middle of a bar.
"W-e-e-ll," he drawled, "I don't know. When I was a young-one I
used to like to holler out back of Uncle Laban Ryder's barn so's to
hear the echo. When you say so and so, Charlie, I generally agree
with you. Maybe you come here to get an echo; eh?"
Phillips laughed. "You're not fair to yourself," he said. "I
generally find when the echo in here says no after I've said yes it
pays me to pay attention to it. Sis says the same thing about you,
Jed made no comment, but his eyes shone. Charles went on.
"Don't you get tired of hearing the story of my life?" he asked.
He stopped short and the smile faded from his lips. Jed knew why.
The story of his life was just what he had not told, what he could
As January slid icily into February Mr. Gabriel Bearse became an
unusually busy person. There were so many things to talk about.
Among these was one morsel which Gabe rolled succulently beneath
his tongue. Charles Phillips, "'cordin' to everybody's tell," was
keeping company with Maud Hunniwell.
"There ain't no doubt of it," declared Mr. Bearse. "All hands is
talkin' about it. Looks's if Cap'n Sam would have a son-in-law on
his hands pretty soon. How do you cal'late he'd like the idea,
Jed squinted along the edge of the board he was planing. He made
no reply. Gabe tried again.
"How do you cal'late Cap'n Sam'll like the notion of his pet
daughter takin' up with another man?" he queried. Jed was still
mute. His caller lost patience.
"Say, what ails you?" he demanded. "Can't you say nothin'?"
Mr. Winslow put down the board and took up another.
"Ye-es," he drawled.
"Then why don't you, for thunder sakes?"
"Eh? . . . Um. . . Oh, I did."
"Oh, you divilish idiot! Stop tryin' to be funny. I asked you how
you thought Cap'n Sam would take the notion of Maud's havin' a
steady beau? She's had a good many after her, but looks as if she
was stuck on this one for keeps."
Jed sighed and looked over his spectacles at Mr. Bearse. The
latter grew uneasy under the scrutiny.
"What in time are you lookin' at me like that for?" he asked,
The windmill maker sighed again. "Why--er--Gab," he drawled, "I
was just thinkin' likely YOU might be stuck for keeps."
"Eh? Stuck? What are you talkin' about?"
"Stuck on that box you're sittin' on. I had the glue pot standin'
on that box just afore you came in and . . . er . . . it leaks
Mr. Bearse raspingly separated his nether garment from the top of
the box and departed, expressing profane opinions. Jed's lips
twitched for an instant, then he puckered them and began to
But, although he had refused to discuss the matter with Gabriel
Bearse, he realized that there was a strong element of probability
in the latter's surmise. It certainly did look as if the spoiled
daughter of Orham's bank president had lost her heart to her
father's newest employee. Maud had had many admirers; some very
earnest and lovelorn swains had hopefully climbed the Hunniwell
front steps only to sorrowfully descend them again. Miss Melissa
Busteed and other local scandal scavengers had tartly classified
the young lady as the "worst little flirt on the whole Cape," which
was not true. But Maud was pretty and vivacious and she was not
averse to the society and adoration of the male sex in general,
although she had never until now shown symptoms of preference for
an individual. But Charlie Phillips had come and seen and, judging
by appearances, conquered.
Since the Thanksgiving dinner the young man had been a frequent
visitor at the Hunniwell home. Maud was musical, she played well
and had a pleasing voice. Charles' baritone was unusually good.
So on many evenings Captain Sam's front parlor rang with melody,
while the captain smoked in the big rocker and listened admiringly
and gazed dotingly. At the moving-picture theater on Wednesday and
Saturday evenings Orham nudged and winked when two Hunniwells and a
Phillips came down the aisle. Even at the Congregational church,
where Maud sang in the choir, the young bank clerk was beginning to
be a fairly constant attendant. Captain Eri Hedge declared that
that settled it.
"When a young feller who ain't been to meetin' for land knows how
long," observed Captain Eri, "all of a sudden begins showin' up
every Sunday reg'lar as clockwork, you can make up your mind it's
owin' to one of two reasons--either he's got religion or a girl.
In this case there ain't any revival in town, so--"
And the captain waved his hand.
Jed was not blind and he had seen, perhaps sooner than any one
else, the possibilities in the case. And what he saw distressed
him greatly. Captain Sam Hunniwell was his life-long friend. Maud
had been his pet since her babyhood; she and he had had many
confidential chats together, over troubles at school, over petty
disagreements with her father, over all sorts of minor troubles and
joys. Captain Sam had mentioned to him, more than once, the
probability of his daughter's falling in love and marrying some
time or other, but they both had treated the idea as vague and far
off, almost as a joke.
And now it was no longer far off, the falling in love at least.
And as for its being a joke--Jed shuddered at the thought. He was
very fond of Charlie Phillips; he had made up his mind at first to
like him because he was Ruth's brother, but now he liked him for
himself. And, had things been other than as they were, he could
think of no one to whom he had rather see Maud Hunniwell married.
In fact, had Captain Hunniwell known the young man's record, of his
slip and its punishment, Jed would have been quite content to see
the latter become Maud's husband. A term in prison, especially
when, as in this case, he believed it to be an unwarranted
punishment, would have counted for nothing in the unworldly mind of
the windmill maker. But Captain Sam did not know. He was
tremendously proud of his daughter; in his estimation no man would
have been quite good enough for her. What would he say when he
learned? What would Maud say when she learned? for it was almost
certain that Charles had not told her. These were some of the
questions which weighed upon the simple soul of Jedidah Edgar
And heavier still there weighed the thought of Ruth Armstrong. He
had given her his word not to mention her brother's secret to a
soul, not even to him. And yet, some day or other, as sure and
certain as the daily flowing and ebbing of the tides, that secret
would become known. Some day Captain Sam Hunniwell would learn it;
some day Maud would learn it. Better, far better, that they
learned it before marriage, or even before the public announcement
of their engagement--always provided there was to be such an
engagement. In fact, were it not for Ruth herself, no
consideration for Charles' feelings would have prevented Jed's
taking the matter up with the young man and warning him that,
unless he made a clean breast to the captain and Maud, he--Jed--
would do it for him. The happiness of two such friends should not
be jeopardized if he could prevent it.
But there was Ruth. She, not her brother, was primarily
responsible for obtaining for him the bank position and obtaining
it under fake pretenses. And she, according to her own confession
to Jed, had urged upon Charles the importance of telling no one.
Jed himself would have known nothing, would have had only a vague,
indefinite suspicion, had she not taken him into her confidence.
And to him that confidence was precious, sacred. If Charlie's
secret became known, it was not he alone who would suffer; Ruth,
too, would be disgraced. She and Babbie might have to leave Orham,
might have to go out of his life forever.
No wonder that, as the days passed, and Gabe Bearse's comments and
those of Captain Eri Hedge were echoed and reasserted by the
majority of Orham tongues, Jed Winslow's worry and foreboding
increased. He watched Charlie Phillips go whistling out of the
yard after supper, and sighed as he saw him turn up the road in the
direction of the Hunniwell home. He watched Maud's face when he
met her and, although the young lady was in better spirits and
prettier than he had ever seen her, these very facts made him
miserable, because he accepted them as proofs that the situation
was as he feared. He watched Ruth's face also and there, too, he
saw, or fancied that he saw, a growing anxiety. She had been very
well; her spirits, like Maud's, had been light; she had seemed
younger and so much happier than when he and she first met. The
little Winslow house was no longer so quiet, with no sound of
voices except those of Barbara and her mother. There were Red
Cross sewing meetings there occasionally, and callers came. Major
Grover was one of the latter. The major's errands in Orham were
more numerous than they had been, and his trips thither much more
frequent, in consequence. And whenever he came he made it a point
to drop in, usually at the windmill shop first, and then upon
Babbie at the house. Sometimes he brought her home from school in
his car. He told Jed that he had taken a great fancy to the little
girl and could not bear to miss an opportunity of seeing her.
Which statement Jed, of course, accepted wholeheartedly.
But Jed was sure that Ruth had been anxious and troubled of late
and he believed the reason to be that which troubled him. He hoped
she might speak to him concerning her brother. He would have liked
to broach the subject himself, but feared she might consider him
One day--it was in late February, the ground was covered with snow
and a keen wind was blowing in over a sea gray-green and splashed
thickly with white--Jed was busy at his turning lathe when Charlie
came into the shop. Business at the bank was not heavy in mid-
winter and, although it was but little after three, the young man
was through work for the day. He hoisted himself to his accustomed
seat on the edge of the workbench and sat there, swinging his feet
and watching his companion turn out the heads and trunks of a batch
of wooden sailors. He was unusually silent, for him, merely
nodding in response to Jed's cheerful "Hello!" and speaking but a
few words in reply to a question concerning the weather. Jed,
absorbed in his work and droning a hymn, apparently forgot all
about his caller.
Suddenly the latter spoke.
"Jed," he said, "when you are undecided about doing or not doing a
thing, how do you settle it?"
Jed looked up over his spectacles.
"Eh?" he asked. "What's that?"
"I say when you have a decision to make and your mind is about
fifty-fifty on the subject, how do you decide?"
Jed's answer was absently given. "W-e-e-ll," he drawled, "I
"But suppose the time comes when you have to, what then?"
"Eh? . . . Oh, then, if 'tain't very important I usually leave it
"Isaiah? Isaiah who?"
"I don't know his last name, but he's got a whole lot of first
ones. That's him, up on that shelf."
He pointed to a much battered wooden figure attached to the edge of
the shelf upon the wall. The figure was that of a little man
holding a set of mill arms in front of him. The said mill arms
were painted a robin's-egg blue, and one was tipped with black.
"That's Isaiah," continued Jed. "Hum . . . yes . . . that's him.
He was the first one of his kind of contraption that I ever made
and, bein' as he seemed to bring me luck, I've kept him. He's
settled a good many questions for me, Isaiah has."
"Why do you call him Isaiah?"
"Eh? Oh, that's just his to-day's name. I called him Isaiah just
now 'cause that was the first of the prophet names I could think
of. Next time he's just as liable to be Hosea or Ezekiel or Samuel
or Jeremiah. He prophesies just as well under any one of 'em,
don't seem to be particular."
Charles smiled slightly--he did not appear to be in a laughing
mood--and then asked: "You say he settles questions for you? How?"
"How? . . . Oh. . . Well, you notice one end of that whirligig
arm he's got is smudged with black?"
"That's Hosea's indicator. Suppose I've got somethin' on--on what
complimentary folks like you would call my mind. Suppose, same as
'twas yesterday mornin', I was tryin' to decide whether or not I'd
have a piece of steak for supper. I gave--er--Elisha's whirlagig
here a spin and when the black end stopped 'twas p'intin' straight
up. That meant yes. If it had p'inted down, 'twould have meant no."
"Suppose it had pointed across--half way between yes and no?"
"That would have meant that--er--what's-his-name--er--Deuteronomy
there didn't know any more than I did about it."
This time Phillips did laugh. "So you had the steak," he observed.
Jed's lip twitched. "I bought it," he drawled. "I got so far all
accordin' to prophecy. And I put it on a plate out in the back
room where 'twas cold, intendin' to cook it when supper time came."
"Well, didn't you?"
"No-o; you see, 'twas otherwise provided. That everlastin' Cherub
tomcat of Taylor's must have sneaked in with the boy when he
brought the order from the store. When I shut the steak up in the
back room I--er--er--hum. . . ."
"You did what?"
"Eh? . . . Oh, I shut the cat up with it. I guess likely that's
the end of the yarn, ain't it?"
"Pretty nearly, I should say. What did you do to the cat?"
"Hum. . . . Why, I let him go. He's a good enough cat, 'cordin' to
his lights, I guess. It must have been a treat to him; I doubt if
he gets much steak at home. . . . Well, do you want to give Isaiah
a whirl on that decision you say you've got to make?"
Charles gave him a quick glance. "I didn't say I had one to make,"
he replied. "I asked how you settled such a question, that's all."
"Um. . . . I see. . . . I see. Well, the prophet's at your
disposal. Help yourself."
The young fellow shook his head. "I'm afraid it wouldn't be very
satisfactory," he said. "He might say no when I wanted him to say
yes, you see."
"Um-hm. . . . He's liable to do that. When he does it to me I
keep on spinnin' him till we agree, that's all."
Phillips made no comment on this illuminating statement and there
was another interval of silence, broken only by the hum and rasp of
the turning lathe. Then he spoke again.
"Jed," he said, "seriously now, when a big question comes up to
you, and you've got to answer it one way or the other, how do you
settle with yourself which way to answer?"
Jed sighed. "That's easy, Charlie," he declared. "There don't any
big questions ever come up to me. I ain't the kind of feller the
big things come to."
Charles grunted, impatiently. "Oh, well, admitting all that," he
said, "you must have to face questions that are big to you, that
seem big, anyhow."
Jed could not help wincing, just a little. The matter-of-fact way
in which his companion accepted the estimate of his insignificance
was humiliating. Jed did not blame him, it was true, of course,
but the truth hurt--a little. He was ashamed of himself for
feeling the hurt.
"Oh," he drawled, "I do have some things--little no-account things--
to decide every once in a while. Sometimes they bother me, too--
although they probably wouldn't anybody with a head instead of a
Hubbard squash on his shoulders. The only way I can decide 'em is
to set down and open court, put 'em on trial, as you might say."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, I call in witnesses for both sides, seems so. Here's the
reasons why I ought to tell; here's the reasons why I shouldn't.
"Tell? Ought to TELL? What makes you say that? What have YOU got
He was glaring at the windmill maker with frightened eyes. Jed
knew as well as if it had been painted on the shop wall before him
the question in the boy's mind, the momentous decision he was
trying to make. And he pitied him from the bottom of his heart.
"Tell?" he repeated. "Did I say tell? Well, if I did 'twas just
a--er--figger of speech, as the book fellers talk about. But the
only way to decide a thing, as it seems to me, is to try and figger
out what's the RIGHT of it, and then do that."
Phillips looked gloomily at the floor. "And that's such an easy
job," he observed, with sarcasm.
"The figgerin' or the doin'?"
"Oh, the doing; the figuring is usually easy enough--too easy. But
the doing is different. The average fellow is afraid. I don't
suppose you would be, Jed. I can imagine you doing almost anything
if you thought it was right, and hang the consequences."
Jed looked aghast. "Who? Me?" he queried. "Good land of love,
don't talk that way, Charlie! I'm the scarest critter that lives
and the weakest-kneed, too, 'most generally. But--but, all the
same, I do believe the best thing, and the easiest in the end, not
only for you--or me--but for all hands, is to take the bull by the
horns and heave the critter, if you can. There may be an awful big
trouble, but big or little it'll be over and done with. THAT bull
won't be hangin' around all your life and sneakin' up astern to get
you--and those you--er--care for. . . . Mercy me, how I do preach!
They'll be callin' me to the Baptist pulpit, if I don't look out.
I understand they're candidatin'."
His friend drew a long breath. "There is a poem that I used to
read, or hear some one read," he observed, "that fills the bill for
any one with your point of view, I should say. Something about a
fellow's not being afraid to put all his money on one horse, or the
last card--about his not deserving anything if he isn't afraid to
risk everything. Wish I could remember it."
Jed looked up from the lathe.
"'He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To win or lose it all.'
That's somethin' like it, ain't it, Charlie?" he asked.
Phillips was amazed. "Well, I declare, Winslow," he exclaimed,
"you beat me! I can't place you at all. Whoever would have
accused you of reading poetry--and quoting it."
Jed rubbed his chin. "I don't know much, of course," he said, "but
there's consider'ble many poetry books up to the library and I like
to read 'em sometimes. You're liable to run across a--er--poem--
well, like this one, for instance--that kind of gets hold of you.
It fills the bill, you might say, as nothin' else does. There's
another one that's better still. About--
'Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide.
Do you know that one?"
His visitor did not answer. After a moment he swung himself from
the workbench and turned toward the door.
"'He either fears his fate too much,'" he quoted, gloomily.
"Humph! I wonder if it ever occurred to that chap that there might
be certain kinds of fate that COULDN'T be feared too much? . . .
Well, so long, Jed. Ah hum, you don't know where I can get hold of
some money, do you?"
Jed was surprised. "Humph!" he grunted. "I should say you HAD
hold of money two-thirds of every day. Feller that works in a bank
is supposed to handle some cash."
"Yes, of course," with an impatient laugh, "but that is somebody
else's money, not mine. I want to get some of my own."
"Sho! . . . Well, I cal'late I could let you have ten or twenty
dollars right now, if that would be any help to you."
"It wouldn't; thank you just the same. If it was five hundred
instead of ten, why--perhaps I shouldn't say no."
Jed was startled.
"Five hundred?" he repeated. "Five hundred dollars? Do you need
all that so very bad, Charlie?"
Phillips, his foot upon the threshold of the outer shop, turned and
looked at him.
"The way I feel now I'd do almost anything to get it," he said, and
Jed told no one of this conversation, although his friend's parting
remark troubled and puzzled him. In fact it troubled him so much
that at a subsequent meeting with Charles he hinted to the latter
that he should be glad to lend the five hundred himself.
"I ought to have that and some more in the bank," he said. "Sam
would know whether I had or not. . . . Eh? Why, and you would,
too, of course. I forgot you know as much about folks' bank
accounts as anybody. . . . More'n some of 'em do themselves,
bashfulness stoppin' me from namin' any names," he added.
Charles looked at him. "Do you mean to tell me, Jed Winslow," he
said, "that you would lend me five hundred dollars without any
security or without knowing in the least what I wanted it for?"
"Why--why, of course. 'Twouldn't be any of my business what you
wanted it for, would it?"
"Humph! Have you done much lending of that kind?"
"Eh? . . . Um. . . . Well, I used to do consider'ble, but Sam he
kind of put his foot down and said I shouldn't do any more. But I
don't HAVE to mind him, you know, although I generally do because
it's easier--and less noisy," he added, with a twinkle in his eye.
"Well, you ought to mind him; he's dead right, of course. You're a
good fellow, Jed, but you need a guardian."
Jed shook his head sadly. "I hate to be so unpolite as to call
your attention to it," he drawled, "but I've heard somethin' like
that afore. Up to now I ain't found any guardian that needs me,
that's the trouble. And if I want to lend you five hundred
dollars, Charlie, I'm goin' to. Oh, I'm a divil of a feller when I
set out to be, desperate and reckless, I am."
Charlie laughed, but he put his hand on Jed's shoulder, "You're a
brick, I know that," he said, "and I'm a million times obliged to
you. But I was only joking; I don't need any five hundred."
"Eh? . . . You don't? . . . Why, you said--"
"Oh, I--er--need some new clothes and things and I was talking
foolishness, that's all. Don't you worry about me, Jed; I'm all
But Jed did worry, a little, although his worry concerning the
young man's need of money was so far overshadowed by the anxiety
caused by his falling in love with Maud Hunniwell that it was
almost forgotten. That situation was still as tense as ever. Two-
thirds of Orham, so it seemed to Jed, was talking about it,
wondering when the engagement would be announced and speculating,
as Gabe Bearse had done, on Captain Sam's reception of the news.
The principals, Maud and Charles, did not speak of it, of course--
neither did the captain or Ruth Armstrong. Jed expected Ruth to
speak; he was certain she understood the situation and realized its
danger; she appeared to him anxious and very nervous. It was to
him, and to him alone--her brother excepted--she could speak, but
the days passed and she did not. And it was Captain Hunniwell who
Captain Sam entered the windmill shop about two o'clock one windy
afternoon in the first week of March. He was wearing a heavy fur
overcoat and a motoring cap. He pulled off the coat, threw it over
a pile of boards and sat down.
"Whew!" he exclaimed. "It's blowing hard enough to start the bark
on a log."
Jed looked up.
"Did you say log or dog?" he asked, solemnly.
The captain grinned. "I said log," he answered. "This gale of
wind would blow a dog away, bark and all. Whew! I'm all out of
breath. It's some consider'ble of a drive over from Wapatomac.
Comin' across that stretch of marsh road by West Ostable I didn't
know but the little flivver would turn herself into a flyin'-
machine and go up."
Jed stopped in the middle of the first note of a hymn.
"What in the world sent you autoin' way over to Wapatomac and back
this day?" he asked.
His friend bit the end from a cigar. "Oh, diggin' up the root of
all evil," he said. "I had to collect a note that was due over
"Humph! I don't know much about such things, but I never
mistrusted 'twas necessary for you to go cruisin' like that to
collect notes. Seems consider'ble like sendin' the skipper up town
to buy onions for the cook. Couldn't the--the feller that owed the
money send you a check?"
Captain Sam chuckled. "He could, I cal'late, but he wouldn't," he
observed. "'Twas old Sylvester Sage, up to South Wapatomac, the
'cranberry king' they call him up there. He owns cranberry bogs
from one end of the Cape to the other. You've heard of him, of
Jed rubbed his chin. "Maybe so," he drawled, "but if I have I've
forgot him. The only sage I recollect is the sage tea Mother used
to make me take when I had a cold sometimes. I COULDN'T forget
"Well, everybody but you has heard of old Sylvester. He's the
biggest crank on earth."
"Hum-m. Seems 's if he and I ought to know each other. . . . But
maybe he's a different kind of crank; eh?"
"He's all kinds. One of his notions is that he won't pay bills by
check, if he can possibly help it. He'll travel fifty miles to pay
money for a thing sooner than send a check for it. He had this
note--fourteen hundred dollars 'twas--comin' due at our bank to-day
and he'd sent word if we wanted the cash we must send for it 'cause
his lumbago was too bad for him to travel. I wanted to see him
anyhow, about a little matter of a political appointment up his
way, so I decided to take the car and go myself. Well, I've just
got back and I had a windy v'yage, too. And cold, don't talk!"
"Um . . . yes. . . . Get your money, did you?"
"Yes, I got it. It's in my overcoat pocket now. I thought one
spell I wasn't goin' to get it, for the old feller was mad about
some one of his cranberry buyers failin' up on him and he was as
cross-grained as a scrub oak root. He and I had a regular row over
the matter of politics I went there to see him about 'special. I
told him what he was and he told me where I could go. That's how
we parted. Then I came home."
"Hum. . . . You'd have had a warmer trip if you'd gone where he
sent you, I presume likely. . . . Um. . . . Yes, yes. . . .
'There's a place in this chorus
For you and for me,
And the theme of it ever
And always shall be:
Hallelujah, 'tis do-ne!
I believe. . . .'
Hum! . . . I thought that paint can was full and there ain't
more'n a half pint in it. I must have drunk it in my sleep, I
guess. Do I look green around the mouth, Sam?"
It was just before Captain Sam's departure that he spoke of his
daughter and young Phillips. He mentioned them in a most casual
fashion, as he was putting on his coat to go, but Jed had a feeling
that his friend had stopped at the windmill shop on purpose to
discuss that very subject and that all the detail of his Wapatomac
trip had been in the nature of a subterfuge to conceal this fact.
"Oh," said the captain, with somewhat elaborate carelessness, as he
struggled into the heavy coat, "I don't know as I told you that the
directors voted to raise Charlie's salary. Um-hm, at last
Saturday's meetin' they did it. 'Twas unanimous, too. He's as
smart as a whip, that young chap. We all think a heap of him."
Jed nodded, but made no comment. The captain fidgeted with a
button of his coat. He turned toward the door, stopped, cleared
his throat, hesitated, and then turned back again.
"Jed," he said, "has--has it seemed to you that--that he--that
Charlie was--maybe--comin' to think consider'ble of--of my
Jed looked up, caught his eye, and looked down again. Captain Sam
"I see," he said. "You don't need to answer. I presume likely the
whole town has been talkin' about it for land knows how long. It's
generally the folks at home that don't notice till the last gun
fires. Of course I knew he was comin' to the house a good deal and
that he and Maud seemed to like each other's society, and all that.
But it never struck me that--that it meant anything serious, you
know--anything--anything--well, you know what I mean, Jed."
"Yes. Yes, Sam, I suppose I do."
"Yes. Well, I--I don't know why it never struck me, either. If
Georgianna--if my wife had been alive, she'd have noticed, I'll
bet, but I didn't. 'Twas only last evenin'; when he came to get
her to go to the pictures, that it came across me, you might say,
like--like a wet, cold rope's end' slappin' me in the face. I give
you my word, Jed, I--I kind of shivered all over. She means--she
means somethin' to me, that little girl and--and--"
He seemed to find it hard to go on. Jed leaned forward.
"I know, Sam, I know," he said. His friend nodded.
"I know you do, Jed," he said. "I don't think there's anybody else
knows so well. I'm glad I've got you to talk to. I cal'late,
though," he added, with a short laugh, "if some folks knew I came
here to--to talk over my private affairs they'd think I was goin'
soft in the head."
Jed smiled, and there was no resentment in the smile.
"They'd locate the softness in t'other head of the two, Sam," he
"I don't care where they locate it. I can talk to you about things
I never mention to other folks. Guess it must be because you--you--
well, I don't know, but it's so, anyhow. . . . Well, to go ahead,
after the young folks had gone I sat there alone in the parlor, in
the dark, tryin' to think it out. The housekeeper had gone over to
her brother's, so I had the place to myself. I thought and thought
and the harder I thought the lonesomer the rest of my life began to
look. And yet--and yet I kept tellin' myself how selfish and
foolish that was. I knew 'twas a dead sartinty she'd be gettin'
married some time. You and I have laughed about it and joked about
it time and again. And I've joked about it with her, too. But--
but jokin's one thing and this was another. . . . Whew!"
He drew a hand across his forehead. Jed did not speak. After a
moment the captain went on.
"Well," he said, "when she got home, and after he'd gone, I got
Maud to sit on my knee, same as she's done ever since she was a
little girl, and she and I had a talk. I kind of led up to the
subject, as you might say, and by and by we--well, we talked it out
pretty straight. She thinks an awful sight of him, Jed. There
ain't any doubt about that, she as much as told me in those words,
and more than told me in other ways. And he's the only one she's
ever cared two straws for, she told me that. And--and--well, I
think she thinks he cares for her that way, too, although of course
she didn't say so. But he hasn't spoken to her yet. I don't know,
but--but it seemed to me, maybe, that he might be waitin' to speak
to me first. I'm his--er--boss, you know, and perhaps he may feel
a little--little under obligations to me in a business way and that
might make it harder for him to speak. Don't it seem to you maybe
that might be it, Jed?"
Poor Jed hesitated. Then he stammered that he shouldn't be
surprised. Captain Sam sighed.
"Well," he said, "if that's it, it does him credit, anyhow. I
ain't goin' to be selfish in this thing, Jed. If she's goin' to
have a husband--and she is, of course--I cal'late I'd rather 'twas
Charlie than anybody else I've ever run across. He's smart and
he'll climb pretty high, I cal'late. Our little single-sticked
bankin' craft ain't goin' to be big enough for him to sail in very
long. I can see that already. He'll be navigatin' a clipper one
of these days. Well, that's the way I'd want it. I'm pretty
ambitious for that girl of mine and I shouldn't be satisfied short
of a top-notcher. And he's a GOOD feller, Jed; a straight, clean,
honest and above-board young chap. That's the best of it, after
all, ain't it?"
Jed's reply was almost a groan, but his friend did not notice. He
put on his overcoat and turned to go.
"So, there you are," he said. "I had to talk to somebody, had to
get it off my chest, and, as I just said, it seems to be easier to
talk such things to you than anybody else. Now if any of the town
gas engines--Gab Bearse or anybody else--comes cruisin' in here
heavin' overboard questions about how I like the notion of Maud and
Charlie takin' up with each other, you can tell 'em I'm tickled to
death. That won't be all lie, neither. I can't say I'm happy,
exactly, but Maud is and I'm goin' to make-believe be, for her
sake. So long."
He went out. Jed put his elbows on the workbench and covered his
face with his hands. He was still in that position when Ruth
Armstrong came in. He rose hastily, but she motioned him to sit
"Jed," she said, "Captain Hunniwell was just here with you; I saw
him go. Tell me, what was he talking about?"
Jed was confused. "Why--why, Mrs. Ruth," he stammered, "he was
just talkin' about--about a note he'd been collectin', and--and
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