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The Belted Seas By Arthur Colton Characters: 11924

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

When Captain Buckingham ended, it was late and dark, the afternoon long gone into evening. The storm still roared around Pemberton's, and we five sat anchored close to the chimney. It might have been a quarter of an hour went by, and it was past time when Pemberton or Stevey Todd should be getting the supper ready, when there came a sudden tumult in the hall without, and some one bounced in, the snow flying after him, and he cried, "I've eloped and I want a minister!" That was how he stated it: "I've eloped and I want a minister!"

Then Pemberton said:

"I dare say now you're right there," and Captain Buckingham said nothing, nor looked up.

I knew it must be Billy Corliss, though I didn't know him, nor did Uncle Abimelech, nor Stevey Todd. He might have blown down from Labrador, or eloped out of Nova Scotia.

Pemberton and Corliss went out together. Then Stevey Todd spoke up cautiously:

"When I look at it," he said, "when I asks myself: 'Is he right or is he not?' I don't hear no objections. And further," he said, leaning forward and speaking low, "it's my opinion there's a woman out there."

Uncle Abimelech lifted his eyes from the kettle that hung over the fire, and stared about and seemed to be alarmed.

"Where?" said Uncle Abimelech.

Stevey Todd pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. Uncle Abimelech followed the direction slowly along the dark ceiling, and seeing nothing alarming there, seemed relieved. He turned back to the fire and muttered:

"She throwed kettles, some."

Then Corliss came in again and after him Pemberton, and with them was a tall girl in layers of cloaks and veils, and layers of snow, which being taken off, she came out as balmy and calm as a tropic coast, and enough to make a man forget his old troubles and lay in new ones. Captain Buckingham only looked at her, and said nothing.

Corliss was a slim young man with a candid manner. For two that had run away to look for matrimony in the snow they both seemed remarkably calm. He looked us over, and inquired our names, and appeared to be satisfied with them, and to like the looks of us.

"Why, that's good," he said. "Now, Miss Madge McCulloch is Mr. Pemberton's granddaughter, as you likely know, and she's ambitious to be Mrs. Billy Corliss. That's a good idea, isn't it? But there are parental objections, hot but reasonable. Parent has no sort of an opinion of me, and wants her to run parental establishment. Both reasonable, aren't they?" he said in his candid way. Madge McCulloch was kneeling before the fire and warming her hands. She looked up and laughed.

"You'd better hurry, Billy, or the minister will be snowed in."

"Why, that's reasonable, too," he said, "I was only going to say that those reasons, as stated, were warm;" and he once more went out with Pemberton.

After a time she laughed again.

"If daddy should come here, what do you think would happen?" and she looked at Captain Buckingham, who looked at her and said nothing, his thin brown face as still as an Indian's.

Stevey Todd said cautiously:

"I'd almost think, Miss, in that case, you'd be in hot water."

"It's in the kettle," said Uncle Abimelech, and Madge McCulloch, "So it is! I wonder if there's tea."

Then she and Stevey Todd laid the table, and we sat watching her make tea, and saw no objections.

"Shall I tell you about it?" she said calmly, pouring tea.

"If so be it's agreeable, Miss," said Stevey Todd; and Uncle Abimelech said, "I takes no sugar in mine," but Captain Tom was silent.

She said she had run out of the back door before it was beginning to grow dusk, and climbed the fence and gotten into Corliss' sleigh, but she was afraid they were seen by neighbours; so that it appeared likely Andrew McCulloch would hear about their going. "He might come after by-and-by, and do something that would be very hot,-Wouldn't it?"

Stevey Todd said, "It might be as you say, Miss," and Uncle Abimelech, "It's better when it's hot," looking into his teacup as if disappointed, but Captain Tom said nothing.

"It was snowing and drifting," she went on, "and we kept falling into ditches, but at last we saw the light of the hotel by the roadside and were glad."

So Billy Corliss had come and bounced at the door, and said he wanted a minister, and quite right he was with respect to those circumstances and Madge McCulloch, as Stevey Todd hinted, though cautiously.

When Pemberton and Corliss came back with the minister, it was clear that Pemberton agreed with Stevey Todd on that point. It may be he was not in the habit of agreeing with Andrew McCulloch. Certainly he gave Madge McCulloch away in marriage to Billy Corliss. And she, saying that she wanted a maid-of-honour, chose Uncle Abimelech for that purpose, which seemed scarcely reasonable, but the minister married them and went his way. Then Stevey Todd could not get over thinking he would have been a better maid-of-honour than Uncle Abimelech, more suitable and more according to the talents of each, and he said this, though indirectly and warily; and Uncle Abimelech said that he recollected licking Stevey Todd thirty years back on the Hebe Maitland, "took him across his knee and whaled him good;" and Stevey Todd, though cautiously, seemed to hint that some one who might be Abe Dalrimple, couldn't do it again, and in other respects resembled a dry codfish. Billy Corliss stood up and said:

"Gentlemen, the elements are raging. In the town of Adrian the ear of imagination detects explosions. But Pemberton's is dedicated to peace and connubiality."

Then they retired with their connubiality, and paid us no more attention, and Pemberton, Captain Buckingham, Stevey Todd, Uncle Abimelech, and I sat by the fire.

Uncle Abimelech seemed to have something on his mind that he would like to get off, for his eyes wandered uneasily, and he muttered:


"Throwed 'em, did she?" said Pemberton to encourage

him, and Uncle Abimelech said:

"Some," and cast his eyes and jerked his thumb vaguely upward, toward the ceiling.

"If she throws 'em at him-Aye-" He struggled with the thought, bringing it slowly out of dim recesses to the light. "She ought to pour the bilin' off first. It ain't right."

Silence fell over us again. At last Captain Tom said:

"Supposing a man is loose-jointed in his mind, like Abe, or Billy Corliss a trifle, and gets took back of the ear with something hard, that steadies him, it's no great harm if it's warm."

"She ought to pour off the bilin'," said Uncle Abimelech uneasily.

After that we sat for a while, each taken with his own thoughts, until Pemberton was knocking out his pipe, like one approaching the idea of a night's rest, when there came a noise in the outer hall, and the wind blew snow under the crack below the inner door. Some one bounced into the room like a storm. He was a short, thickset man with white side whiskers, and looked like an infuriated Santa Claus, for he was covered with snow.

"Most miserable, infernal, impossible night ever made, Mr. Pemberton! Forty thousand devils--Ah! Give me some of that, hot! Detestable night!"

"It is so, Andrew," said Pemberton, soothing and agreeable. "You're near right."

"As referring to weather," said Stevey Todd, "though not putting it so strong, you might-"

But the newcomer broke in, and beat the table with his fist.

"Weather! No! Not weather. Mr. Pemberton, I'll tell you what's the matter. Here's my daughter run away to be married with the coolest, freshest, limber-tongued young codfish that ever escaped salting. Not if I know it! I'll salt him! I'll pickle him! I will, if my name's McCulloch."

He puffed hard, and sat down. Stevey Todd looked at Andrew McCulloch, then he looked at the others and winked cautiously, and Pemberton winked back. But Captain Tom did not look up. Uncle Abimelech too kept his eyes on the fire. He seemed to be following his old train of thought, which Andrew McCulloch's coming had started again in his mind, for he began:

"Before I was married, her mother she used to throw kettles at me. They was kettles," he said bitterly, "with spouts and handles. Aye, afterward she did too, some."

Andrew McCulloch puffed and looked surprised and Pemberton said:

"Ran in the family?"

"Aye. Then she come across the bay in a rowboat, and I was diggin' clams, and she says. 'If you dasn't come to the house, what dast you do?' I see the minister down the beach, diggin' clams, an' he had eleven children, he had, diggin' clams, and she looked at him too, and I says, 'I das' say he'd rather'n dig clams.' We went fishin' afterward, and got eight barrel o' herring."

"You don't say!" says Andrew McCulloch, puffing and looked surprised.

Uncle Abimelech kept his eyes fixed on the kettle and wandered away in his mind. Then Captain Tom roused himself, and spoke thoughtfully.

"It was different with me," he said. "Her parents wanted another one. He was richer, but nowise so good-looking. I says to her, 'Cut and run!' but she wouldn't, as being undutiful. She took him. His name was Jones. He went bankrupt, and got paralysis, and is living still. Her parents died in different poorhouses."

Pemberton looked surprised at this too, and then thoughtful, and then he winked at Stevey Todd, who passed it back.

"I got my wife out of the back window of a boarding school, second story," said Pemberton. "She came down the blinds." And he wiped his face with his coat sleeve.

"Mine came through the cellar," said Stevey Todd. "She brought a pot of jam in her pocket, or else," he added cautiously, "or else it was pickles. It might've been pickles, but it runs in my mind it was jam."

But Pemberton's wife had been a widow first, as he once told me, and Captain Tom's and Stevey Todd's romances didn't run that way, by accounts. But as to Uncle Abimelech, it may be what he said was true.

They all fell silent again, except Andrew McCulloch, who whistled: "Whew, whew, whew!" and pulled his whiskers, now this one and that, and said:

"Bless my soul! You don't mean it!" and fidgeted in his chair. "I didn't suppose it was so usual, I didn't! God bless my soul!"

"It's their nature," said Captain Buckingham at length. "They're made that way."

"You don't mean it!"

"The best thing for 'em is hotel keeping."


"Nothing like it, you can take my word. 'Pemberton's Hotel. Pemberton and Buckingham, Owners and Proprietors. B. Corliss, Manager. Peace, Propriety, and Patronage.' Aye, that's it. They get restless. If they elopes, let 'em keep a hotel. Nothing like it."

"Whew, whew!" whistled Andrew McCulloch. "But they've gone!" he says. "See here! How you going to catch 'em? How you going to set 'em to hotel keeping when they elope off your hands? Where've they gone? That's the point. Where've they gone?"

"Up," said Uncle Abimelech.


"Connubilated," said Uncle Abimelech, pointing. "Gone up."

"Prayed over fifteen minutes," said Stevey Todd, "which I wouldn't so state without watching the clock."

"What!" cried Andrew McCulloch. "Do you mean to say, you aided and abetted, Mr. Pemberton-"

"Peace and connubiality was his last words," went on Stevey Todd, following his train of thought. "Peace and connubiality, he says, and he meant the same."

"Ain't the same!" said Uncle Abimelech.

"Do you mean to say," cried Andrew McCulloch-

"Don't throw nothin' till you pour off the bilin'," said Uncle Abimelech uneasily. "It ain't right."

Andrew McCulloch puffed, "Whew! whew! whew!" as if blowing off the steam of his boiling. Then he said:

"Give me some of that, hot!"

And we all fell silent again.

The kettle sang, the chimney coughed in its throat. One heard outside the whistle of the wind, the moan of the surf far off in the night, and the snow snapping against the windows.

The clock struck ten.


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