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   Chapter 4 4

Mary-'Gusta By Joseph Crosby Lincoln Characters: 30542

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Mary-'Gusta, even though she lives to be a very old woman, will never forget that ride to South Harniss. It was the longest ride she had ever taken, and that of itself would have made it unforgettable. Then, too, she was going visiting, and she had never been visiting before. Also, she was leaving Mrs. Hobbs and, for a time at least, that lady could not remind her of her queerness and badness. More than all, she was going on a journey, a real journey, like a grown-up or a person in a story, and her family-David and the dolls-were journeying with her. What the journey might mean to her, or to what sort of place she was going-these questions did not trouble her in the least. Childlike, she was quite satisfied with the wonderful present, and to the future, even the dreaded orphans' home, she gave not a thought.

Perched on the buggy seat, squeezed in between Captain Shad and Mr. Hamilton, she gazed wide-eyed at the houses and fields and woods along the roadside. She did not speak, unless spoken to, and the two men spoke but seldom, each apparently thinking hard. Occasionally the Captain would sigh, or whistle, or groan, as if his thoughts were disturbing and most unusual. Once he asked her if she was comfortable.

"Yes, sir," she said.

"Havin' a good time? Like to go to ride, do you?"

Mary-'Gusta assumed her most grown-up air.

"Yes, sir," she said. "I just love to travel. It's been the dream of my life."

"Gosh! I want to know!" exclaimed the astonished Shadrach; then he shook his head, chuckled, and ordered the horse to hurry up.

The dolls were arranged in a row against the back of the dashboard. In front of them, and between the Captain's feet and Zoeth's, the battered satchel containing the child's everyday dress and visiting essentials was squeezed. Mary-'Gusta's feet stuck straight out and rested on the top of the satchel. David, in a basket with the lid tied fast, was planted between the last mentioned feet. David did not appear to share his-or her-owner's love of travel. The cat wailed lugubriously at intervals.

Zoeth made the next attempt at conversation.

"Never been to South Harniss, have you, Mary-'Gusta?" he inquired.

"No, sir," gravely. "But," remembering the housekeeper's final charge not to forget her manners, if she had any, "I'm sure I'll like it very much."

"Oh, you are, eh? Well, that's nice. What makes you so sure?"

Mary-'Gusta reflected. She remembered what Mrs. Bailey had said after a week's visit in Bayport, which is fourteen miles from Ostable. "I think everybody enjoys a change of air," she observed.

"My soul and body!" exclaimed Mr. Hamilton.

Captain Shad looked down at his small passenger.

"How old are you, sis?" he demanded.

"I'm seven. But I ain't a sis; I haven't got any brothers or sisters."

"Oh! Well, that's a fact, too, now I come to think of it. How old did you say; seventy, was it?"

"No, sir. Seven. Did you think I said seventy?"

"Eh? No, I guess not."

"I couldn't be seventy. If I was I'd be lots bigger, you know."

"That's so; I presume likely you would."

More reflection. Then: "If I was seventy I guess you wouldn't have asked me."

"Sho! Wouldn't I? Why not?"

"'Cause grown-up folks don't like to be asked how old they are. I asked Mrs. Hobbs how old she was once and she didn't like it."

"Didn't she?"

"No, sir. She told me to mind my own business."

The Captain laughed aloud. Then, turning to Mr. Hamilton, he said: "Say, Zoeth, Isaiah'll be a little mite surprised when he sees this craft make port, eh?"

Zoeth smiled. "I shouldn't wonder," he replied.

"Um-hm. I'd like to have a tintype of Isaiah's face. Well, sis-er, Mary-'Gusta, I mean-there's South Harniss dead ahead. How do you like the looks of it?"

They had emerged from a long stretch of woods and were at the summit of a little hill. From the crest of this hill the road wound down past an old cemetery with gray, moss-covered slate tombstones, over a bridge between a creek and a good-sized pond, on through a clump of pines, where it joined the main highway along the south shore of the Cape. This highway, in turn, wound and twisted-there are few straight roads on Cape Cod-between other and lower hills until it became a village street, the main street of South Harniss. The sun was low in the west and its light bathed the clustered roofs in a warm glow, touched windows and vanes with fire, and twinkled and glittered on the waters of Nantucket Sound, which filled the whole southern horizon. There was little breeze and the smoke from the chimneys rose almost straight. So, too, did the smoke from the distant tugs and steamers. There were two or three schooners far out, and nearer shore, a sailboat. A pretty picture, one which artists have painted and summer visitors enthused over many times.

To Mary-'Gusta it was new and wonderful. The child was in a mood to like almost anything just then. Mrs. Hobbs was miles away and the memory of the music chair and her own disgrace and shame were but memories. She drew a long breath and looked and looked.

"Like it, do you?" asked Zoeth, echoing his friend's question.

Mary-'Gusta nodded. "Yes, sir," she said. "It-it's lovely."

Captain Shadrach nodded. "Best town on earth, if I do say it," he said, emphatically. "So you think it's lovely, eh?"

"Yes, sir." Then, pointing, she asked: "Is that your house?"

The Captain grinned. "Well, no, not exactly," he said. "That's the town hall. Nobody lives there but the selectmen and they ain't permanent boarders-that is, I have hopes some of 'em 'll move after town-meetin' day. Our house is over yonder, down nigh the shore."

The old horse pricked up his ears at sight of home and the buggy moved faster. It rolled through the main street, where the Captain and Mr. Hamilton were kept busy answering hails and returning bows from citizens, male and female. Through the more thickly settled portion of the village it moved, until at a point where there were fewer shops and the houses were older and less up-to-date, it reached the corner of a narrow cross road. There it stopped before a frame building bearing the sign, "Hamilton and Company, Dry Goods, Groceries, Boots and Shoes and Notions." There was a narrow platform at the front of the building and upon this platform were several men, mostly of middle age or older. Mary-'Gusta noticed that most of these men were smoking. If she had been older she might have noticed that each man either sat upon the platform steps or leaned against the posts supporting its roof. Not one was depending solely upon his own muscles for support; he sat upon or leaned against something wooden and substantial.

As the buggy drew alongside the platform the men evinced considerable interest. Not enough to make them rise or relinquish support, but interest, nevertheless.

"Hello, Shad!" hailed one. "Home again, be you?"

"Pretty big funeral, was it?" drawled another.

"Who's that you got aboard?" queried a third.

Captain Shadrach did not answer. Mr. Hamilton leaned forward. "Where's Annabel?" he asked.

"She's inside," replied the first questioner. "Want to see her? Hi, Jabe," turning his head and addressing one of the group nearest the door, "tell Annabel, Zoeth and Shad's come."

"Jabe," who was propped against a post, languidly pushed himself away from it, opened the door behind him and shouted: "Annabel, come out here!" Then he slouched back and leaned against the post again.

The door opened and a stout, red-faced young woman appeared. She looked much more like an Eliza than an Annabel. She had a newspaper in her hand.

"Hey?" she drawled. "Who was that hollerin'? Was it you, Jabez Hedges?"

Jabez did not take the trouble to answer. Instead he took a hand from his trousers pocket and waved it toward the buggy. Annabel looked; then she came down the steps.

"Hello!" she said. "I see you got back all right."

Zoeth nodded. "How'd you get along in the store?" he asked, anxiously. "How's business?"

"Wasn't none to speak of," replied Annabel carelessly. "Sold a couple of spools of cotton and-and some salt pork and sugar. Ezra Howland bought the pork. He wasn't satisfied; said there wasn't enough lean in it to suit him, but I let him have it a cent cheaper, so he took it."

Mr. Hamilton seemed a trifle disappointed. "Was that all?" he asked, with a sigh.

"Yup. No, 'twa'n't neither, come to think of it. Rastus Young's wife, come in with her two young-ones and bought some shoes and hats for 'em."

"Did she pay cash?" demanded Captain Shadrach sharply.

"No; she said charge 'em up, so I done it. Say, ain't you comin' in pretty soon? It's 'most my supper time."

Zoeth opened his mouth to answer, but the Captain got ahead of him.

"It's our supper time, too," he said, crisply. "When we've had it you can have yours. Get dap, January."

The horse, whose name was Major but who was accustomed to being addressed by almost any name, jogged on. Mr. Hamilton sighed once more.

"I'm 'fraid one of us had ought to stayed in the store, Shadrach," he said. "Annabel means well, she's real obligin'; but she ain't a good hand at business."

Shadrach snorted. "Obligin' nothin'!" he retorted. "We're the ones that was obligin' when we agreed to pay her seventy-five cents for settin' astern of the counter and readin' the Advocate. I told you when you hired her that she wasn't good for nothin' but ballast."

"I know, Shadrach. I'd ought to have stayed to home and kept store myself. But I did feel as if I must go to Marcellus's funeral."

"Sellin' them Youngs a whole passel of stuff and lettin' 'em charge it up!" went on Shadrach. "They owe us enough now to keep a decent family all winter. Reg'lar town dead-beats, that's what they are. You couldn't get a cent out of Rastus Young if you were to run a dredge through him."

Mr. Hamilton groaned remorsefully. "If I'd only stayed at home!" he said.

"If you'd stayed to home you'd have charged up the stuff just the same as she did. You're the softest thing, outside of a sponge, in this town. Anybody can impose on you, and you know it, Zoeth."

Zoeth's habitual mildness gave way to resentment, mild resentment.

"Why, Shadrach," he retorted, "how you talk! You was the one that charged up the last things Rastus's folks bought. You know you was."

The Captain looked as if he had been caught napping.

"Well, what's that got to do with it?" he sputtered. "'Twasn't nothin' but some corn meal and a few yards of calico. How could I help chargin' it up, with that woman cryin' and goin' on about their havin' nothin' to eat nor wear in the house? I couldn't let 'em starve, could I? Nor freeze neither?"

"'Twas only last week she did it," protested his partner. "Folks don't freeze in April, seems to me."

"Aw, be still! Don't talk no more about it. By fire!" with a sudden change of subject and a burst of enthusiasm, "look at that horse, will you! Turned right in at the gate without my pullin' the helm once or sayin' a word-knows as much as a Christian, that horse does."

The buggy had rocked and plowed its way over the hummocks and through the sand of the narrow lane and was at the top of a grass-covered knoll, a little hill. At the foot of the hill was the beach, strewn with seaweed, and beyond, the Sound, its waters now a rosy purple in the sunset light. On the slope of the hill toward the beach stood a low, rambling, white house, a barn, and several sheds and outbuildings. There were lilac bushes by the front door of the house, a clam-shell walk from the lane to that door, and, surrounding the whole, a whitewashed picket fence. A sandy rutted driveway led from the rear of the house and the entrance of the barn down to a big gate, now wide open. It was through this gateway and along this drive that the sagacious Major was pulling the buggy.

Mary-'Gusta stared at the house. As she stared the back door was thrown open and a tall, thin man came out. He was in his shirtsleeves, his arms were bare to the elbow, and to Mary-'Gusta's astonishment he wore an apron, a gingham apron similar to those worn by Mrs. Hobbs when at work in the kitchen.

"Ahoy, there, Isaiah!" hailed the Captain. "Here we are."

The man with the apron took a big nickel watch from the upper pocket of his vest, looked at it, and shook his head. Upon his face, which was long and thin like the rest of him, there was a grieved expression.

"A little mite late, ain't we, Isaiah?" said Zoeth, hastily. "Hope we ain't kept supper waitin' too long?"

The tall man returned the watch to the pocket.

"Only twenty-three minutes, that's all," he drawled, with the resignation of a martyr. "Twenty-three minutes ain't much in a lifetime, maybe-but it don't help fried potatoes none. Them potatoes was ready at half-past five."

"Well, 'tain't six yet," protested Captain Shad.

"Maybe 'tain't, but it's twenty-three minutes later'n half-past five. Last thing you said to me was, 'Have supper ready at half-past five!' I had it ready. Them potatoes went on the fire at-"

"There! there!" interrupted the Captain. "Never mind the potatoes. We'll 'tend to them in a minute. Give us a hand with this dunnage. There's a satchel here and some more stuff. Sooner this craft's unloaded the sooner we can eat. All ashore that's goin' ashore."

Zoeth climbed out of the buggy. He lifted their passenger to the ground.

"Mary-'Gusta," he said, "here's where Cap'n Gould and I live. This is Mr. Isaiah Chase. Isaiah, this is Mary Lathrop, Cap'n Marcellus's little girl. She's come to-t-"

"To make us a little visit," put in the Captain, promptly. "You want to get acquainted with Isaiah, Mary-'Gusta; he's cook and steward for me and Mr. Zoeth. That's right; shake hands and be sociable."

Mary-'Gusta extended her hand and Mr. Chase, after wiping his own hand on the apron, pumped hers up and down.

"Pleased to meet you," he said, solemnly.

"Now for the dunnage," said Captain Shad. "There's the satchel and-and the other things. Look out for that basket! LOOK OUT!"

Mr. Chase had seized the basket and swung it out of the buggy. David, frightened at the sudden aerial ascension, uttered a howl. Isaiah dropped the basket as if it was red hot.

"What in tunket!" he exclaimed.

"Nothin' but a cat," explained the Captain. "'Twon't hurt you."

"A cat! What-whose cat?"

"Mine," said Mary-'Gusta, running to the rescue. "He's a real good cat. He ain't cross; he's scared, that's all. Honest, he ain't cross. Are you, David?"

David howled and clawed at the cover of the basket. Mr. Chase backed away.

"A cat!" he repeated. "You fetched a cat-here?"

"Sartin we fetched it." Captain Shadrach was evidently losing patience. "Did you think we'd fetch an elephant? Now get out them-them doll babies and things."

Isaiah stared at the dolls. Mary-'Gusta stopped patting the basket and hastened to the side of the buggy. "I'll take the dollies," she said. "They're mine, too."

A moment later they entered the house. Mary-'Gusta bore three of the dolls. Mr. Hamilton carried the other two, and Isaiah, with the valise in one hand and the basket containing the shrieking David at arm's length in

the other, led the way. Captain Shad, after informing them that he would be aboard in a jiffy, drove on to the barn.

The room they first entered was the kitchen. It was small, rather untidy, and smelt strongly of fish and the fried potatoes.

"Come right along with me, Mary-'Gusta," said Zoeth. "Fetch the satchel, Isaiah."

"Hold on," shouted the perturbed "cook and steward." "What-what in the nation will I do with this critter?"

The "critter" was David, who was apparently turning somersaults in the basket.

Zoeth hesitated. Mary-'Gusta settled the question.

"Put him right down, please," she said. "He'll be better soon as he's put down. He's never traveled before and it's kind of strange to him. He'll be all right and I'll come back and let him out pretty soon. Mayn't I, Mr.-Mr. Chase?"

"Huh? Yes, yes, you can if you want to, I cal'late. I don't want to, that's sure."

He deposited the basket on the floor at his feet. Mary-'Gusta looked at it rather dubiously and for an instant seemed about to speak, but she did not, and followed Mr. Hamilton from the kitchen, through the adjoining room, evidently the dining-room, and up a narrow flight of stairs.

"I cal'late we'll put her in the spare room, won't we, Isaiah?" queried Zoeth, with some hesitation.

Isaiah grunted. "Guess so," he said, ungraciously, "Ain't no other place that I know of. Bed ain't made, though."

The spare room was of good size, and smelled shut up and musty, as spare rooms in the country usually do. It was furnished with a bureau, washstand, and two chairs, each painted in a robin's egg blue with sprays of yellow roses. There were several pictures on the walls, their subjects religious and mournful. The bed was, as Mr. Chase had said, not made; in fact it looked as if it had not been made for some time.

"I've been cal'latin' to make up that bed for more'n a month," explained Isaiah. "Last time 'twas unmade was when Zoeth had that minister from Trumet here of a Saturday and Sunday. Every day I've cal'lated to make up that bed, but I don't seem to get no time. I'm so everlastin' busy I don't get time for nothin', somehow."

"I can make the bed," declared Mary-'Gusta, eagerly. "I can make beds real well. Mrs. Hobbs told me so-once."

The two men looked at each other. Before either could speak a tremendous racket broke out on the floor below, a sound of something-or somebody-tumbling about, a roar in a human voice and a feline screech. Mary-'Gusta rushed for the stairs.

"I knew he would," she said, frantically. "I was afraid somebody would. It was RIGHT in front of the door. Oh! David, dear! I'm a-comin'! I'm a-comin'!"

From the kitchen came Captain Shadrach's voice. It sounded excited and angry.

"Who in blazes left that dum critter right under my feet?" he hollered. "I-I swan, I believe I've broke my neck-or his-one or t'other."

When Zoeth and Isaiah reached the kitchen they found the Captain sitting in a chair, rubbing his knees, and Mary-'Gusta seated on the floor beside the open basket, hugging the frightened and struggling David.

"I-I guess he's all right," panted the child. "I was so afraid he'd be killed. You ain't killed, are you, David?"

David appeared to be remarkably sound and active. He wriggled from his owner's arms and bolted under the stove.

"No; he's all right," said Mary-'Gusta. "Isn't it nice he ain't hurt, Mr.-I mean Cap'n Gould?"

Captain Shad rubbed his knee. "Um-yes," he said, with elaborate sarcasm; "it's lovely. Course I don't mind breakin' both MY legs, but if that cat had been-er-bruised or anything I should have felt bad. Well, Isaiah," he added, tartly, turning to the grinning "steward," "are them fried potatoes of yours real or just in your mind?"

"Eh? Why-why they're right there on the stove, Cap'n Shad."

"Want to know! Then suppose you put 'em on the table. I'm hungry and I'd like to eat one more square meal afore somethin' else happens to finish me altogether. By fire! if this ain't been a day! First that chair, and then that will and letter of Marcellus's, and then this. Humph! Come on, all hands, let's eat supper. I need somethin' solid to brace me up for tomorrow's program; if it's up to this, I'll need strength to last it through. Come on!"

That first supper in the white house by the shore was an experience for Mary-'Gusta. Mrs. Hobbs, in spite of her faultfinding and temper, had been a competent and careful housekeeper. Meals which she prepared were well cooked and neatly served. This meal was distinctly different. There was enough to eat-in fact, an abundance-fried cod and the fried potatoes and hot biscuits and dried-apple pie; but everything was put upon the table at the same time, and Mr. Chase sat down with the others and did not even trouble to take off his apron. The tablecloth was not very clean and the knives and forks and spoons did not glitter like those the child had been accustomed to see.

Even Mr. Hamilton, to whom most of the things of this world-his beloved store excepted-seemed to be unessential trivialities, spoke of the table linen.

"Seems to me," he observed, in his gentle and hesitating way, "this tablecloth's sort of spotted up. Don't you think so, Shadrach?"

Captain Shad's reply was emphatic and to the point.

"Looks as if 'twas breakin' out with chicken-pox," he replied. "Ain't we got a clean one in the locker, Isaiah?"

Mr. Chase's face assumed an aggrieved expression.

"Course we have," he answered, "but I didn't know you was goin' to have company."

"Neither did we. But we could stand a clean table-cloth, even at that."

"I've got somethin' to do besides changin' tablecloths every day."

"Every day! Every Thanksgivin' Day, you mean. This one-"

"Now, look-a-here, Cap'n Shad; you know well as I do that Sarah J. never come to do the washin' last week. She was down with the grip and couldn't move. If you expect me to do washin' as well as cook and sweep and keep house and-and shovel snow, and-"

"Shovel snow! What kind of talk's that? There ain't been any snow since February."

"Don't make no difference. When there was I shoveled it, didn't I? It ain't no use; I try and try, but I can't give satisfaction and I might's well quit. I don't have to stay here and slave myself to death. I can get another job. There's folks in this town that's just dyin' to have me work for em."

Captain Shadrach muttered something to the effect that if Isaiah did work for them they might die sooner. Mr. Chase rose from his seat.

"All right," he said, with dignity. "All right, this settles it. I'm through. After all the years I sailed cook along with you, Shad Gould, and after you beggin' me-yes, sir, beggin' on your knees, as you might say, for me to run this house for you long as you lived-after that, to-to-Good-by. I'll try not to lay it up against you."

He was moving-not hastily, but actually moving-toward the kitchen door. Zoeth, who was evidently much disturbed, rose and laid a hand on his arm.

"There, there, Isaiah," he pleaded. "Don't act so. We ain't findin' any fault. Shadrach wasn't findin' fault, was you, Shadrach?"

"No, no, course I wasn't. Don't talk so foolish, Isaiah. Nobody wants you to quit. All I said was-Come back here and set down. Your tea's gettin' all cold."

To Mary-'Gusta it seemed as if the tea had been at least cool to begin with. However, Mr. Chase suffered himself to be led back to the table and attacked his supper in injured silence. Mary-'Gusta offered a suggestion.

"I guess I could wash a tablecloth," she said. "I always wash my dolls' things."

Her three companions were plainly surprised. The Captain was the first to speak.

"You don't say!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, sir, I do. And," with a glance at the silver, "I can scour knives and forks and spoons, too. I used to help Mrs. Hobbs scour 'em sometimes."

Even Shadrach had no remark to make. He gazed at the child, then at Zoeth, and drew a long breath.

As soon as supper was over the Captain and Mr. Hamilton hastened up to the village and the store.

"You better go to bed pretty soon, Mary-'Gusta," said Zoeth. "You're tired, I know. Isaiah'll make your bed for you. We'll be on hand and see you first thing in the morning. Isaiah'll go up with you and blow out your light and all. Good night."

The Captain said good night also and the pair hurried out.

When at ten o'clock they returned they found Mr. Chase up and awaiting them. Isaiah had a story to tell.

"I never see a young-one like that in this world," declared Isaiah. "You know what she done after you left? Helped me do the dishes. Yes, sir, by time, that's what she done. And she wiped 'em first-rate, too; good enough to satisfy ME, and you know that means somethin' 'cause I ain't easy to satisfy. And talk! Say, I never had a child talk same as she does. How old is she, for the land sakes?"

Zoeth told them the visitor's age.

"Well, maybe so," went on Isaiah, "but she don't talk seven; nigher seventeen, if you ask me. Pumpin' me about funerals, she was, and about folks dyin' and so on. Said she cal'lated she'd have a doll's funeral some time. 'For mercy sakes, what for?' I says. 'Can't you think up anything pleasanter'n that to play? That kind of game would give me the blue creeps!' She, thought that over-she generally thinks about a thing for five minutes afore she talks about it-and says she, 'I know,' she says, 'but a person must go to funerals and so it's better to get used to 'em and know how to behave. I shouldn't want my dolls,' she says, 'to do things at funerals that make people feel bad and laugh.' I couldn't get that through my head. 'If they felt bad they wouldn't laugh, would they?' says I. 'THEY wouldn't-the ones that felt bad wouldn't,' says she, 'but others might laugh at them. And that would make the person who was to blame feel TERRIBLY.' Now what was all that about? Can you make any sense of it?"

Captain Shadrach smiled sheepishly. "I cal'late me and Zoeth have an idea what she was drivin' at," he said. "Go on, Isaiah; what else did she say?"

"What didn't she say? Wanted to know if I thought God would knock anybody's head off that had done wrong, even if they didn't mean to. Yes, sir, that's what she said--if God would knock anybody's head off. Mine pretty nigh come off when she said that. I told her that, fur's I knew, He wasn't in the habit of doin' it. She said that Mrs. Hobbs told her that if she wasn't punished for her wickedness in this world she would be in the next. She was real kind of scared about it, seemed to me. Now what's she done that's wicked, a little critter like her?"

Zoeth said nothing, but he looked vexed and disturbed.

"I'd knock SOMEBODY'S head off if I had my way," observed Shadrach. "Or if I didn't, I'd like to. Where is she now, Isaiah?"

"She's up in the spare room, asleep I cal'late. And she's got her dolls along with her, three on one side and two on t'other. Wanted me to be sure and wake all hands of 'em up on time in the mornin'. He, he! She undressed them dolls, every one of 'em, afore they turned in. Oh, yes, and she helped me make the bed, too. She CAN make a bed, blessed if she can't. And all the time a-talkin', one minute like a child and the next like a forty-year-old woman. She's the queerest young-one!"

"I guess she's had a kind of queer bringin' up," said Zoeth.

"Where's that-where's Saul-er-Elijah-what's his name-David?" asked the Captain. "Where's the cat?"

"He's out in the barn, locked in. She had to go out along with me when I toted him there, and kiss him good night and tell him not to be frightened, and goodness knows what all-you'd think she was that cat's mother, to hear her. How long's she goin' to stay?"

"Don't know," replied Shadrach, hastily. "That ain't settled yet."

"How'd you come to fetch her over here? You're the last ones I ever thought would be fetchin' a child to visit you. Say, you ain't cal'latin' to keep her for good, are you?"

Zoeth hesitated. Shadrach's answer was emphatic.

"Course not," he snapped. "What do Zoeth and me know about managin' a child? Keep her for good, the idea!"

Isaiah chuckled. "'Cordin' to my notion," he said, "you wouldn't have to know much. You wouldn't have to manage her. If she wasn't managin' you-yes, and me, too-inside of a month, I'd miss my guess. She's a born manager. You ought to see her handle them dolls and that cat."

When the two partners of Hamilton and Company went upstairs to their own bedrooms they opened the door of the spare room and peeped in. Mary-'Gusta's head and those of the dolls were in a row upon the pillow. It was a strange sight in that room and that house.

"I declare!" whispered Zoeth. "And this mornin' we never dreamed of such a thing. How long this day has been!"

"Judgin' by the state of my nerves and knees it's been two year," replied Shadrach. "I've aged that much, I swan to man. Humph! I wonder if Marcellus knows what's happened."

His tone was not loud, but it or the lamplight in her face awakened Mary-'Gusta. She stirred, opened her eyes and regarded them sleepily.

"Is it mornin'?" she asked.

"No, no," replied Zoeth. "It's only ten o'clock. Captain Shadrach and I was goin' to bed and we looked in to see if you was all right, that's all. You must go right to sleep again, dearie."

"Yes, sir," said Mary-'Gusta, obediently. Then she added, "I said my prayers to myself but I'll say 'em to you if you want me to."

The embarrassed Captain would have protested, but the girl's mind seemed to be made up.

"I guess I will say 'em again," she said. "There's somethin' in 'em maybe you'd ought to hear." She closed her eyes. "Please God bless Father-Oh, I forgot-bless Mrs. Hobbs and Cap'n Gould and Mr. Hamilton. I thought I'd ask him to bless you, you know, because I'm visitin' here. And bless David and Rose and Rosette and Emma and Christobel and Minnehaha. They're my dolls. And please, God, forgive me for breakin' the music chair and makin' it go off, because you know I am very sorry and won't do it again. And-and, Oh, yes!-bless Mr. Chase, Amen. You don't mind my puttin' you and Mr. Chase in, do you?"

"No, dearie, not a mite," said Zoeth.

Captain Shad, looking more embarrassed than ever, shook his head. "Good night," said Mary-'Gusta. Zoeth hesitated, then he walked over and kissed her.

"Good night, little girl," he said.

"Good night, Mr. Hamilton," said Mary-'Gusta. Then she turned expectantly toward the Captain. Shadrach fidgeted, turned to go, and then, turning back, strode to the bed, brushed the soft cheek with his rough one and hastened out into the hall. Zoeth followed him, bearing the lamp. At the door of the Captain's room, they paused.

"Well, good night, Zoeth," said Shadrach, brusquely.

"Good night, Shadrach. This-this is queer business for you and me, ain't it?"

"I should think 'twas. Humph! You said this morning that maybe Marcellus was alongside of us today. If he is he knows what's happened, don't he?"

"Perhaps he knows that and more, Shadrach. Perhaps he can see what'll happen in the future. Perhaps he knows that, too."

"Humph! Well, if he does, he knows a heap more'n I do. Good night."

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