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   Chapter 5 THE GILDED IDOL AND THE KING CONCH-SHELL

John Gayther's Garden and the Stories Told Therein By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 66776

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The rose-vines were running riot over the old garden wall, and as it was now midsummer and the season of their full bloom had passed, John Gayther set to work one morning to prune and train them. The idea of doing this was forcibly impressed upon his mind that day by the fact that the Mistress of the House had returned the evening before, and he knew that she would notice the untidy appearance of the rose-vines as soon as it should please her to come into the garden. The family had been at the sea-shore for nearly two weeks, and the gardener had missed them sorely, especially the Daughter of the House. They had now all returned, and the butler had told him that they had brought with them a visitor, a Frenchman. John Gayther, whose mind was always full of the Daughter of the House, immediately inquired if he was young; but the butler's answer was unsatisfactory, as he said the gentleman was neither young nor old, and talked queer English. As the butler himself-who was English-talked what seemed to the gardener queer English, John did not lay much stress upon that statement.

He was soon to make his own observations, however, for a sweet voice he knew well called out to him: "We are all back, John, in the dear old garden!"

John turned, and found four persons had come up quietly and were watching his work. He returned the cordial greetings of the family, and then the Master of the House informally introduced their companion. "We have a foreign gentleman with us, John; he belongs to the same nation as your great hero Lafayette, and therefore I know you will be pleased to have him join our story-telling party. For it has been decided by the ruling power in this house that a story is to be told this morning; so leave your vines, and come with us."

John was obliged to follow as the party took the path to the summer-house, but he went unwillingly. Lafayette was a great and good man, but it did not follow that all his countrymen were of that sort; and, in fact, John knew but little about Frenchmen. He immediately conceived a dislike to this one as he saw him walking by the side of the Daughter of the House and evidently pleased with her company. He greatly disliked the idea of telling a story to this stranger, and determined it should not be made interesting.

There was nothing in the Frenchman's appearance to excite this dislike. There was nothing striking about him. He was a good-looking man verging on middle age perhaps, with a rather short little figure and an airy walk.

"Now," said the Master of the House, when the party were all disposed to the best advantage, and the Frenchman had gone into an ecstasy over the view from the summer-house, "John Gayther, you are to listen carefully to this story, for I am going to tell it myself, being moved thereto by the story my wife told here."

John, greatly relieved by this announcement, signified his cordial approbation, and the captain began his relation:

"Captain Abner Budlong was a retired sailorman. He was rather small of stature, with mild blue eyes, and a little gold ring in each of his ears. He was in the prime of life, and had been so often wet with salted water and dried by salted winds that he looked as though he might last forever.

"He had ceased to sail in ships, because his last vessel, of which he had been part-owner, had positively declined to sail any longer under him. When this misguided craft decided to go to the bottom of the sea, Captain Abner, in a little boat, accompanied by his crew, betook himself to the surface of the land, and there he determined to stay for the rest of his life. His home was on the sea-shore. In the summer-time he fished and took people out to sail in his boat; and in the cold weather he generally devoted himself to putting things into his house, or arranging or rearranging the things already there. He himself was his family, and therefore there was no difference of opinion as to the ordering of that household.

"The house was divided through the middle by a narrow hallway; that part to the right as one entered the front door was called by Captain Abner the 'bachelor side,' while the portion to the left he designated as the 'married side.' The right half might have suggested a forecastle, and was neat and clean, with sanded floors and everything coiled up and stowed away in true shipshape fashion. But the other half was viewed by Captain Abner as something in the quarter-deck style. Exactly half the hall was carpeted, and the little parlor opening from it was also carpeted, painted, and papered, and filled with a great variety of furniture and ornaments which the captain had picked up by sea and land. Everything was very pretty and tasteful, according to the captain's ideas of taste and art, and everything was sacred; no collector could have bought anything out of that little parlor, no matter how much money he might offer.

"This parlor and the room above had been furnished, decorated, and ornamented for the future mistress of Captain Abner's household, and he was ready to dedicate them to her services whenever he should be so lucky as to find her. So far, as he sometimes expressed himself, he had not had a chance to sing out, 'There she blows!'

"One afternoon, when Captain Abner was engaged in dusting the ornaments in the parlor, his good friend Samuel Twitty stood in the doorway and accosted him. Sam Twitty had been mate to Captain Abner, and as he had always been accustomed to stand by his captain, he stood by him when he left the sea for the land; although they did not live in the same house, they were great cronies, and were always ready to stand by each other, no matter what happened. Sam's face and figure were distinguished by a pleasant plumpness; he was two or three years the junior of Captain Abner, and his slippered feet were very flat upon the ground. He held his pipe behind his back in such a position that it hung over the uncarpeted part of the hallway. A pipe in the married part of the house was never allowed.

"'Sam,' said Captain Abner, 'you've hove in sight jes at the right minute, for I'm kind o' puzzled. Here's this conch-shell, which is the biggest I ever seed, and a king conch-shell at that, and I can't make up my mind whether she'd like it here in the middle of the mantelpiece, or whether she'd like to have the gilded idol here, where it would be the fust thing she'd see when she came into the room. Sometimes I'm inclined in the way of the heathen idol, and sometimes in the way of the king conch-shell. And how am I to know which she likes? What do you think about it?'

"'Well, now, Cap'n Abner,' said Sam, his head cocked a little to one side, 'that's a pretty hard question to answer, considerin' I don't know who she is and what kind o' taste she's got. But I'll tell you what I'd do if I was you. I'd put that king conch-shell on the mantelpiece, or I would put the gilded idol there, it wouldn't matter much which, and then I'd put the other one handy, so that when she fust come in, and you could see she didn't like whatever it was that was in the middle of the mantelpiece, you could whip it off and put the other thing there almost afore she knowed it.'

"'Sam,' said Captain Abner, 'that's a real good rule to go by, and it looks to me as if it might fit other things besides gilded idols and conch-shells. And now that you're here I'd like you to stay and take supper with me. I've got something to tell you.'

"After the evening meal, which was prepared by Captain Abner and his guest, who were both expert maritime cooks and housekeepers, these two old friends sat down to smoke their pipes, the parlor door having been carefully shut.

"'Sam,' said the captain, 'I've got everything ready for her that I can think of. There isn't anything more she'd be likely to want. So now I'm goin' after her, and I'm goin' to start on Monday mornin'.'

"Sam Twitty was astonished. He had had an idea that Captain Abner would go on preparing for her to the end of his days, and it was a shock to him to hear that the work of preparation, in which he had been interested for so many years, and in which he had so frequently assisted, should now be brought suddenly to a close.

"'Ready!' he ejaculated. 'I wouldn't have believed it if ye hadn't told me yourself. And yet, come to think of it, I can't see for the life of me what else you can do for her.'

"'There ain't nothin' else,' said Abner, 'and on Monday mornin' I'm settin' out to look for her.'

"'Do you go by land or by water?' asked Sam.

"'Land,' was the answer. 'There ain't no chance of runnin' across her by sea.'

"'And how are you goin'? Walkin'?'

"'No, sir,' said Abner. 'I'm goin' to hire a horse and a buggy. That's how I'm goin'.'

"'And where are you goin' to steer fust?' asked Sam.

"'I'm goin' fust to Thompsontown, and after I've took my observations there I'll fetch a compass and sail every which way, if need be. There's lots of people of all sorts in Thompsontown, and I don't see why she shouldn't be one of them.'

"'No more do I,' said Sam Twitty. 'I think it's more'n likely she'll be one of them.'

"Very early the next morning, almost before the first streaks of dawn, Captain Abner was awakened by a voice under his window.

"'Shipmate ahoy!' said the voice, which was Sam Twitty's. In a moment Abner's head was out of the window.

"'Cap'n Abner,' said Sam, 'I'm goin' with you.'

"Abner did not immediately answer, but presently he replied: 'Look here, Sam Twitty; you come around after breakfast and tell me that ag'in.'

"Promptly after breakfast Sam appeared.

"'Look a' here,' said Captain Abner, when they had lighted their morning pipes, 'that ain't a bad notion of yours. Somethin' might turn up when I'd want advice, and you might give me some like you gave me about the king conch-shell and the gilded idol. It ain't a bad idea, and, as you say so, I'd like you to come along.'

"Sam did not reply with the alacrity that might have been expected of him. He puffed silently at his pipe and gazed upon the ground. 'You said you was a-goin' in a buggy,' he remarked.

"'Yes; that's what I'm expectin' to do.'

"'Then how am I to get back?' inquired Sam.

"'That's so,' said Abner. 'I never thought of that.'

"'Look a' here, cap'n,' said Abner; 'what do you say to a spring-wagon with seats for four, two in front, and two behind?'

"This suited Captain Abner, and Sam went on to say: 'There'll be another good thing about that; if you get her and bring her back-'

"'Which is what I'm goin' for and intend to do.'

"'Then,' continued Sam, 'you two could sit on the back seat, and I could sit in front and drive.'

"'Did you ever drive, Sam?' asked Captain Abner.

"'Not yet; but I wouldn't mind l'arnin'.'

"'But you won't l'arn with me and her,' said Captain Abner.

"'How are you goin' to manage it, then?' asked Sam. 'You won't want me and her to sit on the back seat, and it wouldn't look jes right for you an' her to be in front, and me behind all by myself, as if I was company.'

"'Don't know,' said Captain Abner. 'We'll get her fust, and then let her sit where she wants to.'

"'There's one thing I wouldn't like to see,' said Sam Twitty, 'and that's you and me sittin' behind, and her a-drivin'.'

"'There won't be none of that,' said Captain Abner; 'that ain't my way.'"

"Is that a good beginning?" asked the Master of the House, suddenly addressing his wife.

"Yes," she replied, "very good; and I see this is to be a real man's story."

"And so it should be, mamma," said the Daughter of the House. "Men know more about men than they do about women."

"Don't be too sure of that," said her father. "But no matter. The two friends started out on Monday morning after breakfast for Thompsontown. Considerable delay was occasioned at the livery-stable by certain pieces of advice which Sam Twitty offered to Captain Abner. In the first place, he objected to a good black horse which had been attached to the wagon, giving it as his opinion that that looked too much like a funeral, and that a cheerful-colored horse would be much better adapted to a matrimonial expedition. A gray horse, slower than the black one, was substituted, and Sam was quite satisfied. Then a great many things in the way of provisions and conveniences came into his mind which he thought would be well to take on the voyage, and he even insisted upon rigging up an extension at the back of the wagon on which her trunk could be carried on the home journey.

"At last they got away, and as they drove slowly out of the little village not one of the inhabitants thereof knew anything about their intended journey, except that they were going to Thompsontown; for Captain Abner and Sam Twitty would have as soon thought of boring a hole in the bottom of a boat in which they were to sail as of telling their neighbors they were going to look for her and to bring her back in that spring-wagon.

"The old gray horse jogged very comfortably over the smooth road until a toll-gate was perceived near by.

"'Now, then, cap'n,' said Sam, as they drew up in front of the little house by the roadside, 'whatever you pay here you ought to charge to the expense of gettin' her.'

"'That's so,' said his companion; 'but if she's all right I ain't goin' to mind no tolls.'

"A pleasant-faced woman now came to the door of the little house and stood expectant, while Captain Abner thrust his hand into his pocket.

"'How much is it?' said he.

"'It's ten cents,' said she.

"Then Sam Twitty, who did not wish to sit silent, remarked that it was a fine day, and the toll-gate woman said that indeed it was. Captain Abner was now looking at some small change in the palm of his hand.

"'I ain't got ten cents,' said he. 'Here's only six, and I can't scrape up another copper. Sam, can you lend me four cents?'

"Sam searched his pockets. 'Haven't got it,' said he. 'Them little things we bought jes afore we started cleaned me out of change.'

"'The same thing's happened to me, too,' said Abner; 'and, madam, I'll have to ask you to change a five-dollar note, which is the smallest I've got.'

"The toll-gate woman said she was very sorry, but indeed she had not five dollars in change, either at the toll-gate or in the house where she lived just behind in a little garden. The day before she had had a good deal of change, but she had paid it all into the company.

"'Then what are we goin' to do?' asked Sam. 'I suppose you won't let us go through without payin'?'

"The woman smiled and shook her head. 'I couldn't do that; it's against the rules. Sometimes when people come along and find they have nothin' to pay toll with they go back and get the money somewhere. It's our rules, and if I broke them I might lose my place.'

"'Which we wouldn't think of makin' you do,' remarked Sam.

"'But that's one thing I can't do,' said Captain Abner. 'I can't turn round and go back. If the folks knew I was turned back because I couldn't pay toll I'd never hear the end of it.'

"'That's so,' agreed Sam. 'It would never do to go back.'

"The toll woman stood and looked at them and smiled. She was a pleasant personage, not inclined to worry over the misfortunes of her fellow-beings.

"'Isn't there a place somewhere near here where I could get a note changed?' asked Abner.

"'I can't say,' answered the toll woman. 'I don't believe any of the houses along the road has got five dollars in change inside of them, and even if you went across the country to any of the farm-houses, you wouldn't be likely to find that much. But if you are not in a hurry and wouldn't mind waitin', it's as like as not that somebody will be along that's got five dollars in change. You don't seem to know this part of the country,' she added.

"'No,' said Abner; 'when me and my mate travels we generally take the public conveyances. This is the fust time we've druv on this road.'

"Then up spoke Sam Twitty: 'Does you and your husband live here and keep the toll-gate, ma'am?'

"The woman looked as though she thought the plump person a little inquisitive, but she smiled and answered, 'My husband used to keep the toll-gate, but since he died I've kept it.'

"Captain Abner looked troubled. 'I don't mind so much waitin' myself,' said he, 'but it's the horse I'm thinkin' about. I promised I'd have him fed at twelve o'clock sharp every day I have him. He's used to it, and I don't want him givin' out afore I'm through with him.'

"'When horses is used to bein' fed at regular times,' said the toll-gate woman, 'they do show it if they don't get fed. But, if you don't mind, I've got a little stable back there, and some corn, and if you choose to drive your horse into the yard and give him a feed I'll charge you jes what anybody else would. And while he's a-feedin' most likely somebody'll come along that's got five dollars in change.'

"For some minutes Sam Twitty had not said a word, but now he most earnestly advised his friend to accept this offer, and, jumping to the ground, he hurried to open the gate so that Captain Abner might drive in. Abner had not yet made up his mind upon the subject, but, as Sam stood there by the open gate, he drove in.

"'Look a' here!' said Sam, as they stood by the stable door. 'This is a jolly good go! Did you take notice of that toll-gate woman? She's tiptop to look at. Did you see how clean she is, and what a nice way of smilin', an' a good deal of red in her cheeks, too, and jes about old enough, I should say, if I was called upon. And, more than that, I should say, judgin' from what I've seen of her, she's as likely to be as accommodatin' as any person I ever did see that I had seed for so short a time. I jes put her into my mind a-goin' into your parlor and sayin' that conch-shells was jes what she liked on mantelpieces. And I could put her in jes as well with the gilded idol.'

"'You seem to do a lot of thinkin' in a mighty short time,' said Abner. 'But what's all that got to do with anything?'

"'Do!' exclaimed Sam. 'It's got lots to do. Why wouldn't she be a good one for her? I don't believe you'd find a better one in Thompsontown.'

"'Sam Twitty!' exclaimed Abner, rather testily, 'what are you talkin' about? Do you suppose I'd paint and paper and clean up and furnish one side of my house for her, and then start out on a week's cruise to look for her, and then take and put in her place and give everything I've been gettin' for her for so many years to the fust woman I meet, and she a toll-gate woman at that?'"

The Frenchman, who had been listening with great apparent interest, now looked so inquiringly at the Master of the House that he paused in his story.

"Excuse my interrupt," he said apologetically; "but what is toll-gate woman?"

"My conscience!" exclaimed the captain, "you haven't understood a word of my story!" He then proceeded to explain a toll-gate and its office and emoluments; but it was at once evident that the Frenchman knew all about the thing-he did not know the English words which expressed it; and he had a clear comprehension of the narrative.

"Those two men pull two ways," he said gleefully; "ought to make a good story."

"It is a good story if my papa tells it," spoke up the Daughter of the House. And John Gayther was pleased to note a sharpness in her voice.

"Yes, miss; that is just what I say-a very much good story. I long for the end to come."

"Not exactly the compliment intended," remarked the Mistress of the House, with a smile.

"How do you think it will end?" asked the Daughter of the House, impulsively, addressing the Frenchman.

"It is not polite to imagine," he replied.

"But I want to know," she persisted. "It is not impolite to guess."

"Well, then, miss, he marry nobody. Too many women in that Villa Thompson. But we sadly interrupt! Beg pardon, captain."

"The captain I am telling about in my story," said the Master of the House, resuming his narrative, "could not silence Sam Twitty.

"'Now I tell you, cap'n,' he said, as he assisted in taking the horse out of the wagon, 'don't you go and miss a chance. Here's a fust-rate woman, with red cheeks and mighty pretty hair, and a widow, too. Even if you don't take her now, it's my advice that you look at her sharp with the idea that if things don't turn out in Thompsontown as you'd like them to, it would be mighty comfortin' to you to pick her up on your way back.'

"When Captain Abner and Sam returned from the stable they looked up and down the far-stretching road, and then, at the invitation of the toll-gate woman, they seated themselves on a bench at the back of the toll-house.

"''Tisn't a very good time for people to be passin',' said she. 'Not many folks is on the road between twelve and one. They're generally feedin' themselves and their horses. But if you can make yourselves comfortable here in the shade, I don't think you'll have to wait very long. I'll jes step in and see if my dinner ain't cooked. There ain't nobody in sight.'

"Sam Twitty rubbed his hands together. 'In my opinion,' said he, 'that woman is a fust-class housekeeper.'

"In a very few minutes she returned. 'If you gentlemen don't mind,' said she, 'I can give you your dinner here at the same price you'd have to pay anywhere else. I always cook a lot on Mondays, so's I can have something cold for the rest of the week. It's on the table now, and you can go in and wait on yourselves.'

"Sam gave a quick glance at Abner. 'You go in with her,' said he, 'and eat your dinner. I'm not hungry, and I'll wait out here and keep the toll-gate. Afterwards I'll get a bite.'

"The toll-gate woman smiled. 'Perhaps it would be better for me to go in and wait on one of you at a time; but I don't think it's likely there'll be anybody passin'.'

"Abner did not object-he was hungry; and he followed the toll-gate woman into her house. Sam Twitty made a motion as if he would dance a little in his slippered feet.

"'That's jes like runnin' across a dead whale what's jes expired of too much fat. All you've got to do is to cut it up and try it down. The fust thing Cap'n Abner does is to run into a widow woman that'll suit him, I believe, better than anybody he'll meet, if he cruises around Thompsontown for a week.'

"Sam sat down on the bench and pictured things in his mind: he took the toll-gate woman all over Captain Abner's house, even into the unmarried part, and everywhere he saw her the same bright-cheeked, pleasantly smiling woman she was here in her own house. The picture pleased him so much that he withdrew his senses from the consideration of everything else, and therefore it was he did not hear wheels on the road, and was awakened from his pleasant dreams by a voice outside the door. He bounced to his slippered feet, and entered the toll-house.

"On the roadway was a buggy and a horse, and in the buggy sat a smiling young woman. Why she smiled Sam could not imagine; but then, he could not see the comical expression on his own face on being thus suddenly aroused to a sense of his duty.

"'How much is the toll?' said the young woman, still smiling.

"Sam looked at her; she was a good-looking young person, and he liked her smile, for it betokened a sense of humor, and that pleased him. 'How much?' he repeated. 'A vehicle, a man, and a horse-'

"'But this is a girl and a mare,' she interrupted. 'How much is that?'

"Sam looked up and smiled. This young person certainly had a sense of humor. 'I wonder how much that would be,' he said. 'I guess I'll have to get a pencil and paper and work it out.'

"The girl laughed. 'You are not the toll-gate keeper?' she asked.

"'No,' replied Sam. 'I'm keepin' it for her. She's eatin' her dinner. Don't you know the toll yourself? You've paid it before, haven't you?'

"'No, I haven't,' she replied. 'I am visiting in the neighborhood. But I won't haggle about being a girl. I'll pay the price for a man, if you will let me know what it is.'

"An idea came suddenly into Sam Twitty's head: this was a very bright girl, a very attractive girl, who was visiting in the neighborhood, and he determined to keep her at the toll-gate a few minutes if he could.

"'I don't want to make any mistake,' he said quickly. 'I'll jes pop into the house and see what the toll really'll be for you.'

"'Oh, you needn't do that,' said the young woman. 'Of course it is the same-'

"But Sam was gone; and she laughed and said to herself that the deputy toll-gate keeper was a very funny person. Sam ran to the house, panting. He beckoned to Captain Abner to step outside.

"'Look a' here,' he said; 'you hurry out to the gate and take a good long look at the girl that's there. She's a-visitin' in the neighborhood. Now mind you take a good look at her, and I'll be there in a minute.'

"Without exactly understanding the reason for this earnest injunction, Abner went to the gate. He was accustomed to taking Sam's advice if he saw no good reason against it.

"The toll-gate woman was on her feet, but Sam detained her, and said something about the relation between sex and toll.

"'Well, well,' said the woman, 'she must be a queer one. I'll go out to her.'

"'Oh, no,' cried Sam. 'Sit here and finish your dinner. He's comin' right back, and I'll collect the toll.' Half-way to the toll-house Sam met Abner. 'What do you think of her?' he asked hurriedly. 'Did you take a good look at her?'

"'Yes, I did,' replied his friend, 'and I don't think nothin' of her. What is there to think about her?'

"'Go back to your dinner,' cried Sam. 'I've got to collect her toll.'

"'I want you to tell me,' said the girl, not smiling now, 'do you keep a detective here? Do you think I want to cheat the road out of its toll? I am ready to pay the charge, whatever it is.'

"'Detective!' exclaimed Sam.

"'Yes,' said she; 'that little brown man who came out here and looked at me as if he were determined to know me the next time he saw me.'

"'Oh, him!' said Sam. 'That's a friend of mine, Cap'n Abner Budlong. He's no detective, nor nothin' like one. He jes came out to see who was passin' while I was findin' out about the toll. He's always fond of seein' people.'

"'I should think he was,' said the young woman. 'In fact, I think you are a funny lot, toll-gate woman and all. Now here is a quarter; please take the toll and give me the change, that is, if you know how to calculate.'

"Sam took the money, but he did not immediately make the change. 'I don't want you to think hard of any of us,' said he, 'on account of your bein' kept here a little longer than common. But specially I don't want you to think hard of my friend Cap'n Abner Budlong, the gentleman who stepped out here to see who was passin'. Bless your soul, he's no detective! He's one of the finest fellows I know, and you jes ought to see his house at Shamrick. It's filled with more things that's nice to look at and things that's comfortable to use than any other house in that region. Everything's jes as clean and shipshape-'

"'He must have a good wife,' the young woman interrupted.

"'He hasn't got no wife at all,' said Sam, delighted to get in this piece of information. 'Never had one.'

"The girl looked at him, and then she laughed merrily. 'I really must go on,' she said. 'You truly are a funny lot, all of you.' And as she drove on she looked back, still laughing.

"Sam Twitty rubbed his hands together quite cheerfully, and went into the house to get his dinner.

"'Did that woman change your five-dollar note?' asked the keeper of the toll-gate.

"'Bless my soul!' exclaimed Sam. 'I never thought to ask her.'

"'What did you ask her?' cried the woman. 'She was out there for the longest time, and I thought of course you was gettin' your note changed.'

"Sam smiled. 'She was very interesting,' said he."

"What a treasure Sam Twitty would be in a matrimonial bureau!" exclaimed the Mistress of the House.

"Provided he exercised a little more caution in the selection of his specimens," suggested John Gayther, respectfully. "Some might be too green and some the other way, you know; he didn't seem over-particular."

"Three travellers passed through," continued the Master of the House, "but not one of them could change a five-dollar note; and Abner chafed at the delay.

"'I don't like wastin' time like this,' said he to Sam, as the two smoked their after-dinner pipes.

"'Wastin'!' exclaimed Sam. 'I don't call this wastin' time. We didn't start till late this mornin', and here we've got sight of two of her a'ready. Here's this one, as red-cheeked and sociable as anybody could expect, and then there's that gal in the buggy.'

"'Gal in the buggy!' exclaimed Abner. 'What on earth are you talkin' about her for?'

"'Why shouldn't I?' asked Sam. 'I tell you, Cap'n Abner, she's the prettiest and the liveliest young woman you'd be likely to meet if you cruised for a year, and she's visitin' right in the neighborhood, and can't be far from Shamrick.'

"'Codwollops!' said Abner, contemptuously.

"In the course of an hour old Joshua Asbury drove up in his farm-wagon, and changed the five-dollar note, and was glad to do it, for he did not like to carry so much inconvenient silver and copper in his pocket. The two friends now made ready to depart.

"'Let's hurry up,' said Sam. 'We've done fust-rate so far, and maybe we'll sight one or two more afore bedtime.'

"'When you come back,' said the woman, 'I'd be glad to have you stop and rest, and give your horse a feed if you want to.'

"Sam Twitty assured her most earnestly that they certainly would stop, whether they wanted rest and a feed or not; and he thanked her warmly as he paid for the kind entertainment she had given them.

"'Sam,' said Abner, when they were on the road, 'the trouble with you is, you're too quick. If you was at the tiller you'd run into the fust port you come to, and there wouldn't be no v'yage at all.'

"'There's no knowin' when a fellow may want to run into port,' replied Sam, 'and it's a good thing to find out all about them as you're coastin' along.'

"A few miles from the toll-gate they came to the bottom of a long hill, and half-way up it they saw, going in the same direction as themselves, a man walking vigorously.

"'By the general cut of his clothes,' said Sam, 'I'd say he is a minister.'

"'I expect you're right,' said Abner. 'Most likely fillin' some fishin' minister's pulpit Sunday, and walkin' home Monday.'

"The pedestrian clergyman walked more slowly as he neared the top of the hill, and the gray horse gradually overhauled him.

"'Look a' here,' said Sam, nudging his companion, 'let's give him a lift. He must be dreadfully hot. And then, by George, Cap'n Abner, jes think what a jolly thing it'll be-goin' after her, and takin' a minister along, sittin' comfortable on the back seat! That's like holdin' a landin'-net ready to scoop her up the minute you get her to the top of the water.'

"They stopped and asked the clergyman if he were going to Thompsontown, and when he said he was, they invited him to get in and take the unoccupied seat. He proved to be an agreeable companion; he was young and very grateful. Sam soon fell into a very friendly conversation with him, and two or three times, when Abner thought that his friend was on the point of saying something that bore too directly on the object of their journey, he pressed his port boot gently upon Sam's starboard slipper.

"Toward the middle of the afternoon they reached Thompsontown, where the young clergyman said he was going to stop for the night, and go on by train the next day. Sam Twitty was glad to hear this, and advised him to stop at the Spinnaker Boom, where he and Captain Abner intended to stay until they finished the business which brought them to Thompsontown.

"Thompsontown was a seaside resort, and rather a lively place in the season. There was a large hotel for summer visitors who could afford to pay good prices, and several smaller houses of entertainment, such as the Spinnaker Boom, where people of moderate means were made very comfortable.

"It was much too early for supper, and Captain Abner and Sam took a long walk on the beach, and at their invitation the young clergyman joined them. This gentleman, who did not seem to know any one in Thompsontown, proved to be a thorough landsman; but as he was chatty and glad to acquire knowledge, it gave Captain Abner and Sam a great deal of pleasure to talk to him on nautical points and thereby improve his mind. On their return, Sam stopped with a start, and almost dropped his pipe.

"'What's the matter?' cried Captain Abner. 'Did you see her spout?'

"Sam made no answer, but stood with his mouth open. He had remarkably good vision. The clergyman stopped and looked at him inquiringly.

"'They are coming, both of them!' said Sam.

"'Both of who?' asked Abner.

"'The gal in the buggy, and the toll-gate woman.'"

"If I were telling this story," here interrupted the Daughter of the House, excitedly, "I really do not know which one I would marry to Captain Abner!"

"Thank you for the compliment, my dear," said her father.

"Well, there they both were: side by side they were walk

ing along the smooth beach and approaching our three men. Sam's eyes sparkled. The toll-gate woman appeared much more comely and attractive than when engaged in her professional duties earlier in the day. She was now attired in fresh-looking summer clothes, and wore a pretty straw hat. As for the girl of the buggy, she was quite another person. It would have been impossible for any one who had merely seen her within the limited confines of a small vehicle to form any idea of the buoyant air and the lively step of this handsome young woman.

"'Upon my word!' exclaimed Sam Twitty, advancing toward them. 'Who would have expected to meet you two here!'

"At this meeting all our characters were variously affected. The toll-gate woman beamed with pleasure; the young woman of the buggy looked as if she were about to laugh; the young minister looked very much interested, although he could have given no good reason why he should be; the countenance of Captain Abner Budlong betrayed no interest whatever; and Sam Twitty was in a glow of delight.

"'I suppose you are surprised to meet me here,' said the toll-gate woman, 'but this is the way of it: a neighbor and his wife came along soon after you left, and offered to bring me to Thompsontown; and of course I jumped at the chance, and left the toll-gate in charge of my brother, who lives hard by. And in the town, at the house of a friend, I met this young lady, and-' glancing at her companion, she added: 'I really did not catch the name.'

"'Miss Denby,' stated the young person referred to.

"The three men here bowed to Miss Denby; then, stepping nearer to Sam, the toll-gate woman asked in a low voice, 'Who is the minister?'

"'I don't know his name,' said Sam, 'but I'll find out in a minute.' And then he approached the girl of the buggy. 'I am so glad to see you,' he said.

"She laughed outright. 'It is awfully funny,' answered she, 'that you care whether you see me or not.'

"'I don't think it's funny at all,' said Sam. 'But jes let me ask you one thing: what's the name of the toll-gate woman?'

"'Well, I declare!' she exclaimed. 'From the way she talked about you I thought you were old friends. Her name is Mrs. Sickles.'

"Sam skipped over to the young clergyman and put his question: 'Mr-r-r.?'

"'Rippledean,' said the young man.

"In an instant the quick-slippered Sam had joined the party in the bonds of conventional acquaintanceship, having added to the rest of his information the fact that he was Samuel Twitty of Shamrick.

"'You are the funniest people I ever met,' exclaimed the lively Denby girl. 'None of you seems to know the rest.'

"'It is very pleasant to know each other, I am sure,' remarked the toll-gate woman; 'and if I had anything to say about what would be agreeable on such a breezy afternoon as this, now that there's a party of us, I would say it would be to get a boat and take a sail on this sparkling water.'

"'A sail!' cried Sam. 'Why, that will be the best thing in the world, and if you'll wait ten minutes I'll get a boat. Cap'n Silas Peck is a friend of mine, and has got two boats that ain't likely to be out. I'll run down and get one, and have it here in no time.'

"In less than a quarter of an hour the party was seated in Captain Peck's sail-boat, Captain Abner at the tiller, and Sam Twitty in charge of the sheet. They decided to sail out to an island about three miles from shore. A stiff breeze was blowing, and Captain Abner was in his glory. The wind was much too high for ordinary pleasure-boats, and there were no other sails upon the bay; but summer visitors and seafaring men stood along the beach and watched the admirable manner in which that little craft was handled. Word was passed from one to another that it was Captain Abner Budlong of Shamrick who was at the tiller; many of the watchers had heard of Captain Abner and what he had done in days gone by, and they were proud to see what their neighbor of Shamrick was doing now.

"Mrs. Sickles sat beaming, both hands grasping the rail and her feet firmly braced, but with an expression of perfect trust, as she gazed from Captain Abner to Sam Twitty, which would have been edifying to any one of weak habits of faith. The younger woman's hat was off, and her hair was flying like a streamer from a masthead. She drank in the salt breeze with delight, and her eyes sparkled as the boat dipped at the turn of Captain Abner's tiller until the rail cut under the surface of the water as if it were skimming a pan of milk. She looked upon the bright-eyed sailor at the helm as though he were some sort of a salt-water deity whom it was suitable to worship. It was better than sparkling wine to her to dash over the sparkling water.

"The island shore drew near; the little boat bore bravely down upon it, and then with a beautiful sweep fell into the wind; her great wing dropped and hung listless, and her keel gently grazed the sand."

"Very beautiful! Oh, so fine a turn to words!" exclaimed the Frenchman, who was very intent upon the story.

"My papa is a sailor," said the Daughter of the House, proudly. "You should see him bring around a great vessel with a grand sweep, so quietly and so gracefully!"

"You never saw me do anything of the kind," said her father, in surprise.

"I have never seen you," she admitted reluctantly, "but I know just how you would do it."

Her father smiled and laid a hand on her head.

"Well, my dear," he said, "what Sam Twitty told the inmates of the boat was this: 'If there was an egg-shell 'twixt her bow and the beach, Cap'n Abner wouldn't have smashed it.'

"The captain stemmed the praises which now poured upon him, with a jerk of the head. 'That's all very well,' said he, 'but I'm goin' to give Sam Twitty a chance; he'll sail you back.'

"When the party was on shore and the boat safely moored, Sam Twitty began to jump about like a collie dog in charge of a flock of sheep. He had said little in the boat, but his mind had been busily at work with the contemplation of great possibilities. There was much to be done, and but little time to do it in, but Sam's soul warmed up to its work. Casting a rapid glance around, he singled out Captain Abner, and, dashing into the little party, cut him off from his companions, and drove him out of ear-shot.

"'Now, Cap'n Abner,' said he, 'your time's come, and the quicker you get to work the better.'

"'Work!' cried Abner. 'What work have I got to do!'

"'Do!' exclaimed Sam. 'You've got lots to do. Look at that sun. It's settin' jes as steady as if it was bein' towed into port, and you'll never get another chance like this. Here's two women to pop your question to; here is a minister on hand; here's me and the young woman what don't get chosen, for witnesses; here's all them white caps skippin' over the water; and here's this clean stretch of sand. There couldn't be a better place for a sailor to be married in than jes here.'

"'But I tell you, Sam,' said Abner, a little querulously, 'I didn't come here to marry one of them women. I didn't start on this trip to make fast to the fust female person I might fall in with. I set out on a week's cruise, and I want to see a lot of them afore I make a ch'ice.'

"'I tell you, cap'n,' said Sam, very earnestly, 'it won't do. You might hang round Thompsontown for a year, and you wouldn't find any two such women as them two. Here they are, two kinds to pick from: one of them as ripe as a peach, and the other like a cross between a cricket and a blossom. And you've got no time to fool away. When the sun goes down you've got to sail back to Thompsontown, and then one will go one way and the other another, and where the minister will go to, nobody knows. They'll all be scattered and out of sight, and this glorious chance you've got might as well be at the bottom of the sea. Now, cap'n, I tell you, this thing that's right afore you is what you come for. Jes you listen to what I say to you: you go to that Mrs. Sickles and let her see how you're standin' and what your course is. She's no fool, and she can see the sense of gettin' over a sandbar at high tide jes as well as you can.'

"Captain Abner hesitated a moment. 'She's a mighty fine woman, Sam,' said he, 'but if I go and set the case afore her, and she agrees to ship with me, then I can't ask the other one, and there might as well be no other one; and she's as pert a little clipper as ever I seed, Sam, and she likes sailin', that she does.'

"'Now don't you worry about that,' said Sam. 'You jes say all you've got to say to her, and hear all she's got to say, but don't sign no papers and take her aboard until you talk to that other girl. Now hurry up, and walk along the beach a little further off.'

"Without waiting for an answer, Sam Twitty galloped away, or that was what he would have done had he been a sheep-dog. He darted in between Mrs. Sickles and her companions; he turned her down the beach; he talked to her in rapid snaps about the sea, the sky, the sand, and before she knew it he had driven her alongside of Captain Abner. Then, with what might have been compared to a bark of satisfaction, he bounced away to join the others, who were looking for shells.

"In about ten minutes Sam Twitty's port eye told him that Captain Abner and the toll-gate woman were approaching, but in Abner there were signs of a disposition to fall back. In an instant he had bounded between them and was showing shells to the widow. Then, letting her go on by herself, he turned sharply upon Abner.

"'Well,' said he, their heads close together, 'what did she say? Is she all right?'

"Captain Abner threw a glance over the water as if his soul were yearning for the fancied possibilities of Thompsontown. 'Oh, it's all right enough, so far as she counts,' said he. 'I went straight at it, and put the whole thing afore her. I told her about the house and the two parts to it and what they was for, and she said that was charmin'. And I told her about the king conch-shell and the gilded idol, and she said she thought either one of them would be jes lovely, and nothin', she thought, could be better on mantelpieces than gilded idols and king conch-shells. And everything else was jes as slick and smooth as if she was slidin' off the stocks. She's good-lookin' enough, Sam, but she ain't got no mind, and I didn't fix up that house, and bother myself year in and year out a-gettin' it all right, to take it and give it to a woman what's got no mind. She'd be jes as well satisfied to see me a-settin' up on the mantelpiece as if the gilded idol or the king conch-shell was there.'

"'And she don't suit you?' asked Sam, eagerly.

"'No, sir,' replied the other; 'she don't suit.'

"'All right!' exclaimed the ever-ready Sam; 'jes you wait where you are one minute.' In less than that time the agile Sam had rounded up Miss Denby and had her walking along the beach by the side of Captain Abner, and whether she thought that skilful skipper was going to show her some rare seaweed or the state of his mind, Sam considered not for one minute. He had brought the two together, and that was all he cared about.

"The good Mrs. Sickles was standing alone, reflectively gazing upon the little waves, so Sam had no trouble in carrying off the minister to a little distance for confidential remarks.

"'I want you to tell me, sir,' said he, 'if there is any law ag'in' your marryin' a party on the sea-shore, especially when one of them is a sailor?'

"Mr. Rippledean laughed. 'As I am a regularly ordained minister, I can perform a marriage anywhere,' said he, 'provided the parties are of legal age, and there are no objections. But what are you talking about? Who wants to be married?'

"'I can't say jes now,' answered Sam; 'matters isn't settled yet: but everything is goin' ahead lively with a stiff breeze, and I guess we'll get into soundin's pretty soon. I only spoke to you to know if you'd be all right when the couple's ready.'

"'There is nothing the matter with me,' said the young man; 'but I would like to know-'

"'Jes you lay to for a while,' said Sam, 'and I'll tell you all about it.' And then, noticing that Mrs. Sickles was glancing toward the captain and his companion as if she thought to join them, he dashed out upon her to cut her off.

"Meanwhile Miss Denby, with glowing eyes, was saying: 'Yes, I do love to sail, and to sail in a small boat, close to the water, almost as if I were in it, skimming like a bird with my wings dipping. Oh, it is grand! And you have a sail-boat?'

"And the captain answered: 'Indeed I have, and there's none better, either for sailing on the wind, or before the wind, or with next to no wind at all.'

"'How wonderfully you must sail it! I could not keep my eyes off you as you brought us over here. It was grand! You made her do anything you pleased.'

"The captain smiled and nodded. 'But I think of my house as much as I do of my boat, miss,' said he. 'I've got a mighty nice parlor that's as good as any ship's cabin. And now let me put this p'int to you: if you had a big king conch-shell, the prettiest you ever seed, and it was on the middle of the mantelpiece, and you had a gilded idol in another place, would you put the idol where the conch-shell was, and the conch-shell where the idol was, or would you leave 'em both jes where they was afore?'

"The young woman laughed merrily. 'What kind of an idol would it be?' she asked. 'A beautiful piece of carving?'

"''Tain't that,' said Captain Abner; 'it's jes a piece of wood whittled out by a heathen; but it used to be in a temple, and it's gilded all over.'

"'Oh, dear!' said she, 'I don't think much of that sort of an idol. I might like to be a gilded idol myself, if I had the right person to worship me. But as for a wooden idol, I wouldn't put that on the mantelpiece, and I am of the same opinion as to the conch-shell.'

"'But it's a king conch-shell,' said the captain.

"'I don't care,' said she; 'king or queen, it would be all the same to me. But if I were you I think I'd be most of the time in the boat. What is a house, no matter what it has in it, compared to a boat dancing over the waves and speeding before the wind?'

"Captain Abner looked at her. 'I expect you'd like to learn to steer, wouldn't you?'

"'Indeed I would,' she answered. 'There is nothing I would like better.'

"Captain Abner put his hands into his pockets and gently whistled, and, leaving him, Miss Denby ran to join the toll-gate woman. Down swooped Sam Twitty.

"'Is it all right?' he whispered to Abner.

"'All up,' the other answered, 'and I'm glad of it. She don't want no gilded idol, and she don't want no king conch-shell. She wants her hand on the tiller, that's what she wants. She's got too much mind for me. After I've been workin' year in and year out a-gettin' my affairs the way I wants them, I don't fancy anybody comin' down on me and takin' the tiller out of my hands.'

"Sam made two or three steps forward, and then he stood gazing in the direction of the setting sun. Resting on one slippered foot and extending the other before him, he folded his arms and remained a few moments wrapped in thought. Suddenly he turned.

"'Cap'n Abner,' he cried, 'it won't do to sink this chance! It'll never pop up ag'in. You must have spoke pretty plain to that toll-gate woman, considerin' the way she's been turnin' it over in her mind.'

"'Yes, I did,' said Captain Abner, 'and that's the way I found out what she was. But I didn't ask her to ship with me.'

"'And you don't want her to?' said Sam.

"'No, I don't.'

"'And you don't want the other one, nuther?'

"'No, I don't,' replied Captain Abner, doggedly. 'I don't want nuther of 'em. And I say, Sam, the sun's gettin' down and it's about time for us to be settin' sail.'

"'There's a good stretch of sky under that sun yet,' said Sam, 'and jes you wait a bit, cap'n.'

"Sam Twitty walked slowly along the sandy beach; he looked as a sheep-dog might look who was wondering within himself whether or not he had brought back from the fields as many sheep as he had taken out. He stopped, and looked about at the party. Captain Abner was walking toward the boat; the minister and the Denby girl were standing together, comparing shells; the toll-gate woman was strolling by herself a little higher up the beach, still in a reflective mood. Sam gazed from his companions to the sky, the water, the beautiful glistening sands.

"'It's a shame to lose all this,' he said to himself; 'it's a burnin' shame to sink it all.' Then suddenly, as if his master had whistled, he sped to the side of Mrs. Sickles. Backward and forward these two walked, Sam talking earnestly and the toll-gate woman listening with great interest. Captain Abner now and then gave them an impatient glance, but the other couple did not regard them at all.

"'But, Mr. Twitty,' said Mrs. Sickles, 'this is so unexpected. I had an idea of the kind about Cap'n Abner, for I could not help it, but you-really! I've heard of you often, Mr. Twitty, but I never saw you until to-day.'

"'Now, Mrs. Sickles,' said Sam, 'you couldn't have had a better day to see me in, if you'd waited a year; and a-speakin' quick and sharp as I've got to do, for the sun's keepin' on goin' down, there couldn't be a better day to marry me in.'

"'Oh, Mr. Twitty!' cried Mrs. Sickles, with flushed face.

"'There couldn't be a better time or a better place,' said Sam, 'and a minister right here, and two witnesses.'

"'But, Mr. Twitty,' said she, 'I really thought that Cap'n Budlong-and from what he told me about his house and his things-'

"'Cap'n Abner is one of the finest men in this world,' interrupted Sam, 'and he's got a fust-class house, and I ain't got none, and he's got all sorts of things from all parts of the world that he's put in it. But I can get a house and things to put in it, and I can do without gilded idols and king conch-shells, and, what's still more to the p'int, Mrs. Sickles, I wants you, and he don't.'

"'There's something in that,' said the toll-gate woman, and then she added: 'but as to marryin' you here and now, Mr. Twitty, it's not to be thought of.'

"Sam walked slowly away; one might have thought his head drooped under a rebuke. He approached the young minister and the girl of the buggy.

"'Look a' here,' said he to the former; 'you don't mean to say, sir, that you'd back out of marryin' a couple right here and now, that was growed up and of full age, and nothin' to hinder.'

"'Marry!' cried Miss Denby. 'A wedding right here on this beautiful island! Oh, that would be glorious! Who wants to be married?'

"'I do,' said Sam.

"They both laughed. 'But the other person?' asked Mr. Rippledean. 'There must be a bride if you want a wedding.'

"'Oh, the bride'll be Mrs. Sickles,' said Sam. 'But the trouble is she ain't altogether willin'.'

"'I told you,' said the merry Miss Denby-'you know I told you that you are the funniest people I ever met, and you truly are. People generally come to an agreement between themselves before they speak to the clergyman.'

"'Mr. Twitty,' said the clergyman, 'I strongly advise you to give up your present notions of immediate matrimony, and wait at least until all parties agree upon time and place and upon the other circumstances of this union for which you seem so impatient.'

"'Hello, Sam!' shouted Captain Abner from the water's edge, 'ain't you comin' along?'

"Sam made no answer to any one. He walked silently down toward the boat. Everything seemed to be breaking loose from him, and slipping away. His old friend, who had so long wanted her, and who had prepared his house for her, and had set out to look for her, had declined to take her when he saw her; and he, Sam, who had so thoroughly understood the opportunities which had been spread before the little party that afternoon, and who knew what would happen if these opportunities were allowed to slip out of sight, had been set aside by one woman, laughed at by another, had been advised by a clergyman, and had been scolded by Captain Abner. His soul resented all this, and he saw that the edge of the sun was nearly touching the rim of the distant sea. With a great slap upon his thigh, he sprang to the side of the boat, and turned and faced the others, all of whom were now approaching him.

"'I am to sail this boat back to Thompsontown,' he cried. 'It's been agreed I'm to do it, and I'm goin' to do it; but one thing I'll tell you-the sun can go down, the night can come on, and you can all stay here till mornin' if you like, but this boat don't leave this island with me at the helm till I'm a married man!' With this he skipped on board, sat down in the stern, and clapped his broad hands on the tiller.

"There was a burst of astonishment from the rest of the party as Sam thus seated himself at bay. Even the girl of the buggy did not laugh.

"'But I must go home,' she cried, 'before it is any later. My friends will be waiting supper for me.'

"'Don't matter,' said Sam. 'Supper can wait.'

"'Look a' here,' said Captain Abner.

"'I don't want to look a' here,' said Sam. 'I'm a-lookin' a different way, and it's Mrs. Sickles I'm lookin' at. And you needn't none of you look cross at me. I'm to steer this boat home, that's settled, and I don't steer her an inch till I'm a married man.'

"The others gathered together on the beach and gazed with varied emotions upon the determined figure of Sam as he sat in the stern, his arm resting upon the tiller and one leg crossed leisurely over the other, his protruding slipper lighted up by the rays of the setting sun.

"'What is the matter with him?' asked Mr. Rippledean. 'Is he crazy? Does he really think of forcing us to remain here until he shall be married? I never heard anything-'

"'So delightfully absurd,' interrupted Miss Denby.

"'There's nothin' crazy about Sam Twitty,' said Captain Abner. 'He's as sound as a nut, body and soul. But when Sam makes up his mind he sticks to it. Now sometimes when I make up my mind I don't stick to it. He's a good man all around, and he's got enough to live on, though he never was a cap'n; but you couldn't find a better fust mate than him, or a better sailor, except perhaps somebody what's had a leetle more experience. Sam made up his mind that we was all comin' out here for a weddin', everything fallin' together exactly to suit, wind and tide and everything else. But Sam ain't goin' to force nobody to do nothin'; he ain't that kind. All he's goin' to do is to stay here till he's married.'

"The girl of the buggy clapped her hands. 'Oh, that is fine!' she cried. 'It is like lifting you up on a horse and dashing away with you. Oh, dear Mrs. Sickles, take pity on him and on all of us. If you do not, I shall have to talk to him myself and see if I-'

"Mrs. Sickles was not inclined to give attention to any such idle words as these, and she stepped up to Captain Abner.

"'You seem to think very well of Mr. Twitty, sir,' she said.

"'Indeed I do,' he answered. 'There ain't nobody I think more of, on watch or below, in storm or fine weather, take him as you find him, than I do of him.'

"Sam Twitty had not heard any of the remarks which had been made on shore; he had been communing with himself: but now his active mind would no longer permit him to sit still. Springing to his feet, he stepped forward and stood up in the bow of the boat, and cast his eye over the little party in front of him. Then he spoke:

"'Mrs. Sickles, I want to put a p'int to you that's been put to you afore, but I want to put it a little different. If there was a gilded idol and a king conch-shell that you knowed of, and you was asked which of them you would like to have for your own, and you only could have one-'

"'Oh, dear!' exclaimed Miss Denby, 'here is that delightful gilded idol and conch-shell again! I wonder what they will do now!'

"The toll-gate woman was paling and flushing, and these changes of countenance, combined with her becoming summer dress and her straw hat, made her very attractive to the eye. Without waiting for Sam to finish his remarks, she spoke:

"'I am very sure, Mr. Twitty, that both the things you mention, from what I have heard of them, would be very nice and pleasant; but you see, Mr. Twitty, I don't-'

"Sam suddenly stepped upon the rail, steadying himself by the mast. 'Mrs. Sickles,' he cried, 'I'll put it plainer to you: supposing you couldn't get the gilded idol?'

"Mrs. Sickles now saw very clearly that there was no more time for hesitation. She stepped a little forward.

"'In that case,' she said, 'I'd take the conch-shell.'

"With a bound, Sam Twitty sprang from the shore, and the next moment he had seized the blushing Mrs. Sickles by the hand. For a moment he gazed proudly around, the sunset light casting a ruddy glow upon his countenance which made it almost as rosy as that of his companion. Then he tucked her under his arm and turned toward the minister.

"'Please step this way, Mr. Rippledean,' he said. 'That little bluff there, with grass on it, is the place I've picked out for the ceremony. And, Cap'n Abner, I'll ask you and that young woman to follow along after us and stand up for witnesses.'

"Just as the upper edge of the sun disappeared beneath the glowing sea, the name of Sickles departed from observation and recognition on that line of longitude. But in the glow upon the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Twitty there was nothing to remind one of a sunset sky. It might have been supposed, rather, that they were gazing eastward, and that the morn was glorious.

"Having gravely saluted his bride, Sam lifted up his voice. He was used to that sort of thing, for he had been a boatswain. 'Cap'n Abner Budlong,' he exclaimed, 'step aft and kiss the bride!'

"When this command had been obeyed with urbane alacrity, Sam called out again, very much as if he were piping all hands to osculation: 'Rev. Mr. Rippledean, step aft and kiss the bride!'

"When the minister had retired from the performance of his duty, Sam cast a speaking glance in the direction of Miss Denby. He looked as if he would say that on this occasion it was a great pity that any one should be left out. The girl of the buggy understood his glance, and lifted up her voice in laughter.

"'Oh, no, Mr. Twitty,' said she, 'it is not the custom to kiss witnesses.'

"'Oh, no,' answered Mrs. Twitty, in tones of approbation; and these were the first words she spoke after she had ceased to be Sickles.

"As that boat of blissfulness sped across the bay, speeding along under a strong breeze from the west, under a sky full of orange-colored clouds, Sam Twitty's strong hand grasped the tiller with an energy which would have been sufficient for the guidance of a ship of the line. As the thin sheets of water curled over the lee scuppers of the boat, the right hand which held Sam's left never trembled nor tightened its hold; and when the clergyman, sitting by Miss Denby, asked her if she felt at all afraid, she cheerily replied:

"'Not with the gilded idol and the king conch-shell both on board-no, not I!'

* * *

"The honeymoon of Mr. and Mrs. Twitty was spent in Thompsontown, and lasted three days; for at the end of that time the bride's brother demanded to be released from the care of the toll-gate, having other duties which were incumbent upon him. But when Sam and his wife spoke of leaving the Spinnaker Boom, Captain Abner was perfectly willing to go with them. His face bore an expression of contented resignation.

"'I will drive you two back, Sam,' said he. ''Tain't no more use for me to stay here. I don't believe I'll find her, and I give it up.'

"On the way home the happy Mr. Twitty burst out laughing. 'It do seem awful comical, Cap'n Abner,' said he, 'that, after all we said about comin' home, that me and her should be a-settin' on the back seat and you a-drivin' in front alone.' And when this remark was explained to Mrs. Twitty she laughed very heartily indeed.

"Sam did not go directly back to Shamrick. His wife had a good house, and could not, without due notice, give up her public office, and so he determined to remain, for the present, in the very pleasant quarters thus afforded him. But he vowed with considerable vehemence that Mrs. Twitty should keep the toll-gate no more; this duty, so long as it had to be performed, he would take upon himself, and he found it a most congenial and interesting occupation.

"'Like it!' he exclaimed to his wife, after his first day's experience. 'It's as interestin' as readin' the weekly paper. Everybody that comes along seems ready for some different kind of chat. And when that young woman with the buggy happens to be drivin' this way, she don't pay no toll. I'll pay for her myself, every time, on account of her services as witness.'

"'No, you don't, Sam Twitty,' remarked his consort; 'that young woman pays her own toll, every time. While I'm here I don't want no changes in the customs of this toll-gate.'

* * *

"It was about a fortnight after Sam Twitty's wedding that that well-satisfied individual, being called to the gate by the sound of wheels, beheld a buggy, and Miss Denby sitting therein. In answer to Sam's cheerful greeting, she did not laugh, nor even smile.

"'I saw your friend Captain Abner about a week ago,' she said, 'as I drove through Shamrick, and he looked dreadfully solemn. I think his disappointment is wearing on him. It is a great pity that a man who can sail a boat as he can should have a moment's sorrow on this earth. It almost made me feel sorry he found out I wanted to learn to steer. I think that was the only barrier between us. And he would have taken me out sailing every fine day!'

"'Oh, no, no,' said Sam; 'that would never have done. You could never have kept your hands off the tiller. If he had known what was good for him he would have married her.' These words he spoke in a confidential tone, and pointed with his thumb behind him. 'But he had the chance, and he didn't take it, and now I don't wonder he's doleful.'

"'You ought to go and try to cheer him up,' said Miss Denby, gathering up the reins. 'Do you expect to go on keeping this toll-gate, Mr. Twitty?'

"'I'd like to,' said Sam, 'if you're goin' to keep on travellin' this way.'

"'Oh!' said Miss Denby, with a reproving smile.

"'Yes, indeed,' said Sam; 'for it reminds me of such a happy day.'

"'Oh!' said Miss Denby, as she drove away with her nose in the air.

"A few days after this Sam did go to Shamrick, and walking on the street he met Captain Abner; but, to his surprise, that individual did not look at all doleful. There was a half-smile on his lips, and his step was buoyant. The two old friends clasped hands with much heartiness.

"'You are as gay as a pot of red paint,' said Sam. 'You must be feelin' well.'

"'I should say so,' said Abner; and then, after a portentous pause, he added: 'I've got her.'

"'Got her!' exclaimed Sam, in amazement. 'Where did you get her?'

"'Got her here.'

"'And who is it you've got?'

"'Susan Shellbark.'

"'Susan Shellbark!' cried Sam. 'You don't mean to say that!'

"'It's Susan Shellbark, and I do mean to say that.'

"'Why, you've known her all your life,' said Sam.

"'All my life,' was the answer.

"'Then why didn't you take her afore?' asked his friend.

"'Because I hadn't been to Thompsontown to see what I could get there. Of course I didn't want to take anybody here until I found out what there was in Thompsontown. Now I know there ain't nothin' for me there.'

"'And so you take Susan Shellbark!' interrupted Sam.

"'And so I take Susan Shellbark.'

"Sam looked at his friend for a moment, and then burst out laughing. 'Give me your hand,' he cried. 'I'm mighty glad you've got Susan Shellbark, and I'm mighty glad you went to Thompsontown.'

"'So am I,' said Captain Abner. 'If I hadn't gone to Thompsontown I'd never have got Susan Shellbark.'

"'That's so,' cried Sam. 'And if you hadn't made up your mind to go to Thompsontown, you and me'd never got stuck at the toll-gate with nothin' but a five-dollar note. I'm mighty glad we was stuck, Cap'n Abner; I'm mighty glad we was stuck!'

"Thereupon the two friends shook hands again.

"'But there is one thing I want to ask,' said Sam. 'What about the gilded idol and the king conch-shell?'

"'Oh, that's all right,' said Captain Abner; 'they're both to go on to the mantelpiece, one on one end, and t'other on the other. That's to be the way with everything we've got. You've knowed Susan Shellbark as long as I have, Sam, and you know she'll stick to that bargain.'

"'That's so,' said Sam; 'she'll stick to that bargain. Both of you'll be on the mantelpiece, one on one end, and the other on t'other.'"

"And what became of the girl in the buggy?" asked the Mistress of the House.

"Her later history is unknown to me," said the Master of the House.

"I have not made up my mind about that story, papa," said the Daughter of the House. "It is not altogether satisfactory."

"But very much what usually happens," said John Gayther, in an undertone.

THIS STORY IS TOLD BY

THE FRENCHMAN

AND IS CALLED

MY BALLOON HUNT

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