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Jonesy by Joseph C. Lincoln

 

'Twas Peter T. Brown that suggested it, you might know. And, as likewise you might know, 'twas Cap'n Jonadab that done the most of the growling.

"They ain't no sense in it, Peter," says he. "Education's all right in its place, but 'tain't no good out of it. Why, one of my last voyages in the schooner Samuel Emory, I had a educated cook, feller that had graduated from one of them correspondence schools. He had his diploma framed and hung up on the wall of the galley along with tintypes of two or three of his wives, and pictures cut out of the Police News, and the like of that. And cook! Why, say! one of the fo'mast hands ate half a dozen of that cook's saleratus biscuit and fell overboard. If he hadn't been tangled up in his cod line, so we could haul him up by that, he'd have been down yet. He'd never have riz of his own accord, not with them biscuits in him. And as for his pie! the mate ate one of them bakeshop paper plates one time, thinking 'twas under crust; and he kept sayin' how unusual tender 'twas, at that. Now, what good was education to that cook? Why—"

"Cut it out!" says Peter T., disgusted. "Who's talking about cooks? These fellers ain't cooks—they're—"

"I know. They're waiters. Now, there 'tis again. When I give an order and there's any back talk, I want to understand it. You take a passel of college fellers, like you want to hire for waiters. S'pose I tell one of 'em to do something, and he answers back in Greek or Hindoo, or such. _I_ can't tell what he says. I sha'n't know whether to bang him over the head or give him a cigar. What's the matter with the waiters we had last year? They talked Irish, of course, but I understood the most of that, and when I didn't 'twas safe to roll up my sleeves and begin arguing. But—"

"Oh, ring off!" says Peter. "Twenty-three!"

And so they had it, back and forth. I didn't say nothing. I knew how 'twould end. If Peter T. Brown thought 'twas good judgment to hire a mess of college boys for waiters, fellers who could order up the squab in pigeon-English and the ham in hog-Latin, I didn't care, so long as the orders and boarders got filled and the payroll didn't have growing pains. I had considerable faith in Brown's ideas, and he was as set on this one as a Brahma hen on a plaster nest-egg.

"It'll give tone to the shebang," says he, referring to the hotel; "and we want to keep the Old Home House as high-toned as a ten- story organ factory. And as for education, that's a matter of taste. Me, I'd just as soon have a waiter that bashfully admitted 'Wee, my dam,' as I would one that pushed 'Shur-r-e, Moike!' edge- ways out of one corner of his mouth and served the lettuce on top of the lobster, from principle, to keep the green above the red. When it comes to tone and tin, Cap'n, you trust your Uncle Pete; he hasn't been sniffling around the tainted-money bunch all these days with a cold in his head."

So it went his way finally, as I knew it would, and when the Old Home opened up on June first, the college waiters was on hand. And they was as nice a lot of boys as ever handled plates and wiped dishes for their board and four dollars a week. They was poor, of course, and working their passage through what they called the "varsity," but they attended to business and wa'n't a mite set up by their learning.

And they made a hit with the boarders, especially the women folks. Take the crankiest old battle ship that ever cruised into breakfast with diamond headlights showing and a pretty daughter in tow, and she would eat lumpy oatmeal and scorched eggs and never sound a distress signal. How could she, with one of them nice-looking gentlemanly waiters hanging over her starboard beam and purring, "Certainly, madam," and "Two lumps or one, madam?" into her ear? Then, too, she hadn't much time to find fault with the grub, having to keep one eye on the daughter. The amount of complaints that them college boys saved in the first fortnight was worth their season's wages, pretty nigh. Before June was over the Old Home was full up and we had to annex a couple of next-door houses for the left-overs.

I was skipper for one of them houses, and Jonadab run the other. Each of us had a cook and a waiter, a housekeeper and an up-stairs girl. My housekeeper was the boss prize in the package. Her name was Mabel Seabury, and she was young and quiet and as pretty as the first bunch of Mayflowers in the spring. And a lady—whew! The first time I set opposite to her at table I made up my mind I wouldn't drink out of my sasser if I scalded the lining off my throat.

She was city born and brought up, but she wa'n't one of your common "He! he! ain't you turrible!" lunch-counter princesses, with a head like a dandelion gone to seed and a fish-net waist. You bet she wa'n't! Her dad had had money once, afore he tried to beat out Jonah and swallow the stock exchange whale. After that he was skipper of a little society library up to Cambridge, and she kept house for him. Then he died and left her his blessing, and some of Peter Brown's wife's folks, that knew her when she was well off, got her the job of housekeeper here with us.

The only trouble she made was first along, and that wa'n't her fault. I thought at one time we'd have to put up a wire fence to keep them college waiters away from her. They hung around her like a passel of gulls around a herring boat. She was nice to 'em, too, but when you're just so nice to everybody and not nice enough to any special one, the prospect ain't encouraging. So they give it up, but there wa'n't a male on the place, from old Dr. Blatt, mixer of Blatt's Burdock Bitters and Blatt's Balm for Beauty, down to the boy that emptied the ashes, who wouldn't have humped himself on all fours and crawled eight miles if she'd asked him to. And that includes me and Cap'n Jonadab, and we're about as tough a couple of women-proof old hulks as you'll find afloat.

Jonadab took a special interest in her. It pretty nigh broke his heart to think she was running my house instead of his. He thought she'd ought to be married and have a home of her own.

"Well," says I, "why don't she get married then? She could drag out and tie up any single critter of the right sex in this neighborhood with both hands behind her back."

"Humph!" says he. "I s'pose you'd have her marry one of these soup-toting college chaps, wouldn't you? Then they could live on Greek for breakfast and Latin for dinner and warm over the leavings for supper. No, sir! a girl hasn't no right to get married unless she gets a man with money. There's a deck-load of millionaires comes here every summer, and I'm goin' to help her land one of 'em. It's my duty as a Christian," says he.

One evening, along the second week in July 'twas, I got up from the supper-table and walked over toward the hotel, smoking, and thinking what I'd missed in not having a girl like that set opposite me all these years. And, in the shadder of the big bunch of lilacs by the gate, I see a feller standing, a feller with a leather bag in his hand, a stranger.

"Good evening," says I. "Looking for the hotel, was you?"

He swung round, kind of lazy-like, and looked at me. Then I noticed how big he was. Seemed to me he was all of seven foot high and broad according. And rigged up—my soul! He had on a wide, felt hat, with a whirligig top onto it, and a light checked suit, and gloves, and slung more style than a barber on Sunday. If I'D wore them kind of duds they'd have had me down to Danvers, clanking chains and picking straws, but on this young chap they looked fine.

"Good evening," says the seven-footer, looking down and speaking to me cheerful. "Is this the Old Ladies' Home—the Old Home House, I should say?"

"Yes, sir," says I, looking up reverent at that hat.

"Right," he says. "Will you be good enough to tell me where I can find the proprietor?"

"Well," says I, "I'm him; that is, I'm one of him. But I'm afraid we can't accommodate you, mister, not now. We ain't got a room nowheres that ain't full."

He knocked the ashes off his cigarette. "I'm not looking for a room," says he, "except as a side issue. I'm looking for a job."

"A job!" I sings out. "A JOB?"

"Yes. I understand you employ college men as waiters. I'm from Harvard, and—"

"A waiter?" I says, so astonished that I could hardly swaller. "Be you a waiter?"

"_I_ don't know. I've been told so. Our coach used to say I was the best waiter on the team. At any rate I'll try the experiment."

Soon's ever I could gather myself together I reached across and took hold of his arm.

"Son," says I, "you come with me and turn in. You'll feel better in the morning. I don't know where I'll put you, unless it's the bowling alley, but I guess that's your size. You oughtn't to get this way at your age."

He laughed a big, hearty laugh, same as I like to hear. "It's straight," he says. "I mean it. I want a job."

"But what for? You ain't short of cash?"

"You bet!" he says. "Strapped."

"Then," says I, "you come with me to-night and to-morrer morning you go somewheres and sell them clothes you've got on. You'll make more out of that than you will passing pie, if you passed it for a year."

He laughed again, but he said he was bound to be a waiter and if I couldn't help him he'd have to hunt up the other portion of the proprietor. So I told him to stay where he was, and I went off and found Peter T. You'd ought to seen Peter stare when we hove in sight of the candidate.

"Thunder!" says he. "Is this Exhibit One, Barzilla? Where'd you pick up the Chinese giant?"

I done the polite, mentioning Brown's name, hesitating on t'other chap's.

"Er-Jones," says the human lighthouse. "Er-yes; Jones."

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Jones," says Peter. "So you want to be a waiter, do you? For how much per?"

"Oh, I don't know. I'll begin at the bottom, being a green hand. Twenty a week or so; whatever you're accustomed to paying."

Brown choked. "The figure's all right," he says, "only it covers a month down here."

"Right!" says Jones, not a bit shook up. "A month goes."

Peter stepped back and looked him over, beginning with the tan shoes and ending with the whirligig hat.

"Jonesy," says he, finally, "you're on. Take him to the servants' quarters, Wingate."

A little later, when I had the chance and had Brown alone, I says to him:

"Peter," says I, "for the land sakes what did you hire the emperor for? A blind man could see HE wa'n't no waiter. And we don't need him anyhow; no more'n a cat needs three tails. Why—"

But he was back at me before I could wink. "Need him?" he says. "Why, Barzilla, we need him more than the old Harry needs a conscience. Take a bird's-eye view of him! Size him up! He puts all the rest of the Greek statues ten miles in the shade. If I could only manage to get his picture in the papers we'd have all the romantic old maids in Boston down here inside of a week; and there's enough of THEM to keep one hotel going till judgment. Need him? Whew!"

Next morning we was at the breakfast-table in my branch establishment, me and Mabel and the five boarders. All hands was doing their best to start a famine in the fruit market, and Dr. Blatt was waving a banana and cheering us with a yarn about an old lady that his Burdock Bitters had h'isted bodily out of the tomb. He was at the most exciting part, the bitters and the undertaker coming down the last lap neck and neck, and an even bet who'd win the patient, when the kitchen door opens and in marches the waiter with the tray full of dishes of "cereal." Seems to me 'twas chopped hay we had that morning—either that or shavings; I always get them breakfast foods mixed up.

But 'twa'n't the hay that made everybody set up and take notice. 'Twas the waiter himself. Our regular steward was a spindling little critter with curls and eye-glasses who answered to the hail of "Percy." This fellow clogged up the scenery like a pet elephant, and was down in the shipping list as "Jones."

The doc left his invalid hanging on the edge of the grave, and stopped and stared. Old Mrs. Bounderby h'isted the gold-mounted double spyglass she had slung round her neck and took an observation. Her daughter "Maizie" fetched a long breath and shut her eyes, like she'd seen her finish and was resigned to it.

"Well, Mr. Jones," says I, soon's I could get my breath, "this is kind of unexpected, ain't it? Thought you was booked for the main deck."

"Yes, sir," he says, polite as a sewing-machine agent, "I was, but Percy and I have exchanged. Cereal this morning, madam?"

Mrs. Bounderby took her measure of shavings and Jones's measure at the same time. She had him labeled "Danger" right off; you could tell that by the way she spread her wings over "Maizie." But I wa'n't watching her just then. I was looking at Mabel Seabury— looking and wondering.

The housekeeper was white as the tablecloth. She stared at the Jones man as if she couldn't believe her eyes, and her breath come short and quick. I thought sure she was going to cry. And what she ate of that meal wouldn't have made a lunch for a hearty humming-bird.

When 'twas finished I went out on the porch to think things over. The dining room winder was open and Jonesy was clearing the table. All of a sudden I heard him say, low and earnest:

"Well, aren't you going to speak to me?"

The answer was in a girl's voice, and I knew the voice. It said:

"You! YOU! How COULD you? Why did you come?"

"You didn't think I could stay away, did you?"

"But how did you know I was here? I tried so hard to keep it a secret."

"It took me a month, but I worked it out finally. Aren't you glad to see me?"

She burst out crying then, quiet, but as if her heart was broke.

"Oh!" she sobs. "How could you be so cruel! And they've been so kind to me here."

I went away then, thinking harder than ever. At dinner Jonesy done the waiting, but Mabel wa'n't on deck. She had a headache, the cook said, and was lying down. 'Twas the same way at supper, and after supper Peter Brown comes to me, all broke up, and says he:

"There's merry clink to pay," he says. "Mabel's going to leave."

"No?" says I. "She ain't neither!"

"Yes, she is. She says she's going to-morrer. She won't tell me why, and I've argued with her for two hours. She's going to quit, and I'd rather enough sight quit myself. What'll we do?" says he.

I couldn't help him none, and he went away, moping and miserable. All round the place everybody was talking about the "lovely" new waiter, and to hear the girls go on you'd think the Prince of Wales had landed. Jonadab was the only kicker, and he said 'twas bad enough afore, but now that new dude had shipped, 'twa'n't the place for a decent, self-respecting man.

"How you goin' to order that Grand Panjandrum around?" he says. "Great land of Goshen! I'd as soon think of telling the Pope of Rome to empty a pail of swill as I would him. Why don't he stay to home and be a tailor's sign or something? Not prance around here with his high-toned airs. I'm glad you've got him, Barzilla, and not me."

Well, most of that was plain jealousy, so I didn't contradict. Besides I was too busy thinking. By eight o'clock I'd made up my mind and I went hunting for Jones.

I found him, after a while, standing by the back door and staring up at the chamber winders as if he missed something. I asked him to come along with me. Told him I had a big cargo of talk aboard, and wouldn't be able to cruise on an even keel till I'd unloaded some of it. So he fell into my wake, looking puzzled, and in a jiffy we was planted in the rocking chairs up in my bedroom.

"Look here," says I, "Mr.—Mr.—"

"Jones," says he.

"Oh, yes—Jones. It's a nice name."

"I remember it beautifully," says he, smiling.

"All right, Mr. Jones. Now, to begin with, we'll agree that it ain't none of my darn business, and I'm an old gray-headed nosey, and the like of that. But, being that I AM old—old enough to be your dad, though that's my only recommend for the job—I'm going to preach a little sermon. My text is found in the Old Home Hotel, Wellmouth, first house on the left. It's Miss Seabury," says I.

He was surprised, I guess, but he never turned a hair. "Indeed?" he says. "She is the—the housekeeper, isn't she?"

"She was," says I, "but she leaves to-morrer morning."

THAT hit him between wind and water.

"No?" he sings out, setting up straight and staring at me. "Not really?"

"You bet," I says. "Now down in this part of the chart we've come to think more of that young lady than a cat does of the only kitten left out of the bag in the water bucket. Let me tell you about her."

So I went ahead, telling him how Mabel had come to us, why she come, how well she was liked, how much she liked us, and a whole lot more. I guess he knew the most of it, but he was too polite not to act interested.

"And now, all at once," says I, "she gives up being happy and well and contented, and won't eat, and cries, and says she's going to leave. There's a reason, as the advertisement folks say, and I'm going to make a guess at it. I believe it calls itself Jones."

His under jaw pushed out a little and his eyebrows drew together. But all he said was, "Well?"

"Yes," I says. "And now, Mr. Jones, I'm old, as I said afore, and nosey maybe, but I like that girl. Perhaps I might come to like you, too; you can't tell. Under them circumstances, and with the understanding that it didn't go no farther, maybe you might give me a glimpse of the lay of the land. Possibly I might have something to say that would help. I'm fairly white underneath, if I be sunburned. What do you think about it?"

He didn't answer right off; seemed to be chewing it over. After a spell he spoke.

"Mr. Wingate," says he, "with the understanding that you mentioned, I don't mind supposing a case. Suppose you was a chap in college. Suppose you met a girl in the vicinity that was—well, was about the best ever. Suppose you came to find that life wasn't worth a continental without that girl. Then suppose you had a dad with money, lots of money. Suppose the old fo—the gov'nor, I mean— without even seeing her or even knowing her name or a thing about her, said no. Suppose you and the old gentleman had a devil of a row, and broke off for keeps. Then suppose the girl wouldn't listen to you under the circumstances. Talked rot about 'wasted future' and 'throwing your life away' and so on. Suppose, when you showed her that you didn't care a red for futures, she ran away from you and wouldn't tell where she'd gone. Suppose—well, I guess that's enough supposing. I don't know why I'm telling you these things, anyway."

He stopped and scowled at the floor, acting like he was sorry he spoke. I pulled at my pipe a minute or so and then says I:

"Hum!" I says, "I presume likely it's fair to suppose that this break with the old gent is for good?"

He didn't answer, but he didn't need to; the look on his face was enough.

"Yes," says I. "Well, it's likewise to be supposed that the idea— the eventual idea—is marriage, straight marriage, hey?"

He jumped out of his chair. "Why, damn you!" he says. "I'll—"

"All right. Set down and be nice. I was fairly sure of my soundings, but it don't do no harm to heave the lead. I ask your pardon. Well, what you going to support a wife on—her kind of a wife? A summer waiter's job at twenty a month?"

He set down, but he looked more troubled than ever. I was sorry for him; I couldn't help liking the boy.

"Suppose she keeps her word and goes away," says I. "What then?"

"I'll go after her."

"Suppose she still sticks to her principles and won't have you? Where'll you go, then?"

"To the hereafter," says he, naming the station at the end of the route.

"Oh, well, there's no hurry about that. Most of us are sure of a free one-way pass to that port some time or other, 'cording to the parson's tell. See here, Jones; let's look at this thing like a couple of men, not children. You don't want to keep chasing that girl from pillar to post, making her more miserable than she is now. And you ain't in no position to marry her. The way to show a young woman like her that you mean business and are going to be wuth cooking meals for is to get the best place you can and start in to earn a living and save money. Now, Mr. Brown's father-in-law is a man by the name of Dillaway, Dillaway of the Consolidated Cash Stores. He'll do things for me if I ask him to, and I happen to know that he's just started a branch up to Providence and is there now. Suppose I give you a note to him, asking him, as a favor to me, to give you the best job he can. He'll do it, I know. After that it's up to you. This is, of course, providing that you start for Providence to-morrer morning. What d'you say?"

He was thinking hard. "Suppose I don't make good?" he says. "I never worked in my life. And suppose she—"

"Oh, suppose your granny's pet hen hatched turkeys," I says, getting impatient, "I'll risk your making good. I wa'n't a first mate, shipping fo'mast hands ten years, for nothing. I can generally tell beet greens from cabbage without waiting to smell 'em cooking. And as for her, it seems to me that a girl who thinks enough of a feller to run away from him so's he won't spile his future, won't like him no less for being willing to work and wait for her. You stay here and think it over. I'm going out for a spell."

When I come back Jonesy was ready for me.

"Mr. Wingate," says he, "it's a deal. I'm going to go you, though I think you're plunging on a hundred-to-one shot. Some day I'll tell you more about myself, maybe. But now I'm going to take your advice and the position. I'll do my best, and I must say you're a brick. Thanks awfully."

"Good enough!" I says. "Now you go and tell her, and I'll write the letter to Dillaway."

So the next forenoon Peter T. Brown was joyful all up one side because Mabel had said she'd stay, and mournful all down the other because his pet college giant had quit almost afore he started. I kept my mouth shut, that being the best play I know of, nine cases out of ten.

I went up to the depot with Jonesy to see him off.

"Good-by, old man," he says, shaking hands. "You'll write me once in a while, telling me how she is, and—and so on?"

"Bet you!" says I. "I'll keep you posted up. And let's hear how you tackle the Consolidated Cash business."

July and the first two weeks in August moped along and everything at the Old Home House kept about the same. Mabel was in mighty good spirits, for her, and she got prettier every day. I had a couple of letters from Jones, saying that he guessed he could get bookkeeping through his skull in time without a surgical operation, and old Dillaway was down over one Sunday and was preaching large concerning the "find" my candidate was for the Providence branch. So I guessed I hadn't made no mistake.

I had considerable fun with Cap'n Jonadab over his not landing a rich husband for the Seabury girl. Looked like the millionaire crop was going to be a failure that summer.

"Aw, belay!" says he, short as baker's pie crust. "The season ain't over yet. You better take a bath in the salt mack'rel kag; you're too fresh to keep this hot weather."

Talking "husband" to him was like rubbing pain-killer on a scalded pup, so I had something to keep me interested dull days. But one morning he comes to me, excited as a mouse at a cat show, and says he:

"Ah, ha! what did I tell you? I've got one!"

"I see you have," says I. "Want me to send for the doctor?"

"Stop your foolishing," he says. "I mean I've got a millionaire. He's coming to-night, too. One of the biggest big-bugs there is in New York. Ah, ha! what did I tell you?"

He was fairly boiling over with gloat, but from between the bubbles I managed to find out that the new boarder was a big banker from New York, name of Van Wedderburn, with a barrel of cash and a hogshead of dyspepsy. He was a Wall Street "bear," and a steady diet of lamb with mint sass had fetched him to where the doctors said 'twas lay off for two months or be laid out for keeps.

"And I've fixed it that he's to stop at your house, Barzilla," crows Jonadab. "And when he sees Mabel—well, you know what she's done to the other men folks," he says.

"Humph!" says I, "maybe he's got dyspepsy of the heart along with the other kind. She might disagree with him. What makes you so cock sartin?"

"'Cause he's a widower," he says. "Them's the softest kind."

"Well, you ought to know," I told him. "You're one yourself. But, from what I've heard, soft things are scarce in Wall Street. Bet you seventy-five cents to a quarter it don't work."

He wouldn't take me, having scruples against betting—except when he had the answer in his pocket. But he went away cackling joyful, and that night Van Wedderburn arrived.

Van was a substantial-looking old relic, built on the lines of the Boston State House, broad in the beam and with a shiny dome on top. But he could qualify for the nervous dyspepsy class all right, judging by his language to the depot-wagon driver. When he got through making remarks because one of his trunks had been forgot, that driver's quotation, according to Peter T., had "dropped to thirty cents, with a second assessment called." I jedged the meals at our table would be as agreeable as a dog-fight.

However, 'twas up to me, and I towed him in and made him acquainted with Mabel. She wa'n't enthusiastic—having heard some of the driver sermon, I cal'late—until I mentioned his name. Then she gave a little gasp like. When Van had gone up to his rooms, puffing like a donkey-engyne and growling 'cause there wa'n't no elevators, she took me by the arm and says she:

"WHAT did you say his name was, Mr. Wingate?"

"Van Wedderburn," says I. "The New York millionaire one."

"Not of Van Wedderburn Hamilton, the bankers?" she asks, eager.

"That's him," says I. "Why? Do you know him? Did his ma used to do washing at your house?"

She laughed, but her face was all lit up and her eyes fairly shone. I could have—but there! never mind.

"Oh, no," she says, "I don't know him, but I know of him—everybody does."

Well, everybody did, that's a fact, and the way Marm Bounderby and Maizie was togged out at the supper-table was a sin and a shame. And the way they poured gush over that bald-headed broker was enough to make him slip out of his chair. Talk about "fishers of men"! them Bounderbys was a whole seiner's crew in themselves.

But what surprised me was Mabel Seabury. She was dressed up, too; not in the Bounderbys' style—collar-bones and diamonds—but in plain white with lace fuzz. If she wa'n't peaches and cream, then all you need is lettuce to make me a lobster salad.

And she was as nice to Van as if he was old Deuteronomy out of the Bible. He set down to that meal with a face on him like a pair of nutcrackers, and afore 'twas over he was laughing and eating apple pie and telling funny yarns about robbing his "friends" in the Street. I judged he'd be sorry for it afore morning, but I didn't care for that. I was kind of worried myself; didn't understand it.

And I understood it less and less as the days went by. If she'd been Maizie Bounderby, with two lines in each hand and one in her teeth, she couldn't have done more to hook that old stock-broker. She cooked little special dishes for his dyspepsy to play with, and set with him on the piazza evenings, and laughed at his jokes, and the land knows what. Inside of a fortni't he was a gone goose, which wa'n't surprising—every other man being in the same fix—but 'TWAS surprising to see her helping the goneness along. All hands was watching the game, of course, and it pretty nigh started a mutiny at the Old Home. The Bounderbys packed up and lit out in ten days, and none of the other women would speak to Mabel. They didn't blame poor Mr. Van, you understand. 'Twas all her—"low, designing thing!"

And Jonadab! he wa'n't fit to live with. The third forenoon after Van Wedderburn got there he come around and took the quarter bet. And the way he crowed over me made my hands itch for a rope's end. Finally I owned up to myself that I'd made a mistake; the girl was a whitewashed tombstone and the whitewash was rubbing thin. That night I dropped a line to poor Jonesy at Providence, telling him that, if he could get a day off, maybe he'd better come down to Wellmouth, and see to his fences; somebody was feeding cows in his pasture.

The next day was Labor Day, and what was left of the boarders was going for a final picnic over to Baker's Grove at Ostable. We went, three catboats full of us, and Van and Mabel Seabury was in the same boat. We made the grove all right, and me and Jonadab had our hands full, baking clams and chasing spiders out of the milk, and doing all the chores that makes a picnic so joyfully miserable. When the dinner dishes was washed I went off by myself to a quiet bunch of bayberry bushes half a mile from the grove and laid down to rest, being beat out.

I guess I fell asleep, and what woke me was somebody speaking close by. I was going to get up and clear out, not being in the habit of listening to other folks' affairs, but the very first words I heard showed me that 'twas best, for the feelings of all concerned, to lay still and keep on with my nap.

"Oh, no!" says Mabel Seabury, dreadful nervous and hurried-like; "oh, no! Mr. Van Wedderburn, please don't say any more. I can't listen to you, I'm so sorry."

"Do you mean that—really mean it?" asks Van, his voice rather shaky and seemingly a good deal upset. "My dear young lady, I realize that I'm twice your age and more, and I suppose that I was an old fool to hope; but I've had trouble lately, and I've been very lonely, and you have been so kind that I thought—I did hope— I— Can't you?"

"No," says she, more nervous than ever, and shaky, too, but decided. "No! Oh, NO! It's all my fault. I wanted you to like me; I wanted you to like me very much. But not this way. I'm— I'm—so sorry. Please forgive me."

She walked on then, fast, and toward the grove, and he followed, slashing at the weeds with his cane, and acting a good deal as if he'd like to pick up his playthings and go home. When they was out of sight I set up and winked, large and comprehensive, at the scenery. It looked to me like I was going to collect Jonadab's quarter.

That night as I passed the lilac bushes by the gate, somebody steps out and grabs my arm. I jumped, looked up, and there, glaring down at me out of the clouds, was friend Jones from Providence, R. I.

"Wingate," he whispers, fierce, "who is the man? And where is he?"

"Easy," I begs. "Easy on that arm. I might want to use it again. What man?"

"That man you wrote me about. I've come down here to interview him. Confound him! Who is he?"

"Oh, it's all right now," says I. "There was an old rooster from New York who was acting too skittish to suit me, but I guess it's all off. His being a millionaire and a stock-jobber was what scart me fust along. He's a hundred years old or so; name of Van Wedderburn."

"WHAT?" he says, pinching my arm till I could all but feel his thumb and finger meet. "What? Stop joking. I'm not funny to- night."

"It's no joke," says I, trying to put my arm together again. "Van Wedderburn is his name. 'Course you've heard of him. Why! there he is now."

Sure enough, there was Van, standing like a statue of misery on the front porch of the main hotel, the light from the winder shining full on him. Jonesy stared and stared.

"Is that the man?" he says, choking up. "Was HE sweet on Mabel?"

"Sweeter'n a molasses stopper," says I. "But he's going away in a day or so. You don't need to worry."

He commenced to laugh, and I thought he'd never stop.

"What's the joke?" I asks, after a year or so of this foolishness. "Let me in, won't you? Thought you wa'n't funny to-night."

He stopped long enough to ask one more question. "Tell me, for the Lord's sake!" says he. "Did she know who he was?"

"Sartin," says I. "So did every other woman round the place. You'd think so if—"

He walked off then, laughing himself into a fit. "Good night, old man," he says, between spasms. "See you later. No, I don't think I shall worry much."

If he hadn't been so big I cal'lated I'd have risked a kick. A man hates to be made a fool of and not know why.

A whole lot of the boarders had gone on the evening train, and at our house Van Wedderburn was the only one left. He and Mabel and me was the full crew at the breakfast-table the follering morning. The fruit season was a quiet one. I done all the talking there was; every time the broker and the housekeeper looked at each other they turned red.

Finally 'twas "chopped-hay" time, and in comes the waiter with the tray. And again we had a surprise, just like the one back in July. Percy wa'n't on hand, and Jonesy was.

But the other surprise wa'n't nothing to this one. The Seabury girl was mightily set back, but old Van was paralyzed. His eyes and mouth opened and kept on opening.

"Cereal, sir?" asks Jones, polite as ever.

"Why! why, you—you rascal!" hollers Van Wedderburn. "What are you doing here?"

"I have a few days' vacation from my position at Providence, sir," answers Jones. "I'm a waiter at present."

"Why, ROBERT!" exclaims Mabel Seabury.

Van swung around like he was on a pivot. "Do you know HIM?" he pants, wild as a coot, and pointing.

'Twas the waiter himself that answered.

"She knows me, father," he says. "In fact she is the young lady I told you about last spring; the one I intend to marry."

Did you ever see the tide go out over the flats? Well, that's the way the red slid down off old Van's bald head and across his cheeks. But it came back again like an earthquake wave. He turned to Mabel once more, and if ever there was a pleading "Don't tell" in a man's eyes, 'twas in his.

"Cereal, sir?" asks Robert Van Wedderburn, alias "Jonesy."

Well, I guess that's about all. Van Senior took it enough sight more graceful than you'd expect, under the circumstances. He went straight up to his room and never showed up till suppertime. Then he marches to where Mabel and his son was, on the porch, and says he:

"Bob," he says, "if you don't marry this young lady within a month I'll disown you, for good this time. You've got more sense than I thought. Blessed if I see who you inherit it from!" says he, kind of to himself.

Jonadab ain't paid me the quarter yet. He says the bet was that she'd land a millionaire, and a Van Wedderburn, afore the season ended, and she did; so he figgers that he won the bet. Him and me got wedding cards a week ago, so I suppose "Jonesy" and Mabel are on their honeymoon now. I wonder if she's ever told her husband about what I heard in the bayberry bushes. Being the gamest sport, for a woman, that ever I see, I'll gamble she ain't said a word about it.

 
 
 

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