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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCap'n Dan's Daughter - Chapter 16
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Cap'n Dan's Daughter - Chapter 16 Post by :jon_poland Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :2751

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Cap'n Dan's Daughter - Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

Serena and Daniel were together in the parlor. It was past dinner time, but Azuba, for some reason or other, had not gotten dinner ready. This was unusual for, if there was one thing upon which the housekeeper prided herself, it was in being "prompt at meal times." She was setting the table now, however, and they could hear her rattling the knives and forks and singing, actually singing.

"Azuba is in good spirits, isn't she," observed Serena. "I haven't heard her sing before for a long time. I suppose, like the rest of us, she has been too troubled to sing."

Captain Dan listened to the singing, shook his head, and remarked whimsically, "There's some comfort to be got out of trouble, then. Say, the 'Sweet By and By' would turn sour if it could hear her sing about it, wouldn't it?"

"Hush, Daniel, don't be irreverent. Why don't you light the lamp, or let me light it? It's getting so dark I can hardly see you."

"Never mind; let's sit in the dark a spell. Gertie comin' down pretty soon, is she?"

"Yes. She's changing her dress, because you asked her to. Why did you ask her? Why should she dress up just for you and me?"

"Oh, just a notion of mine. I like that red dress of hers, anyway; the one with the fringe trimmin's along the upper riggin'."

"That dress isn't red, it's pink."

"I don't care. I thought 'twas about the color of my nose, and if that's pink then I'm losin' my complexion."

"Daniel!" with a laugh, "how you do talk and act to-day! At luncheon you were as queer as could be and now you're worse. I never saw you so fidgety and excited. What IS going to happen? Something, I know. You wouldn't tell me this noon; will you tell me now?"

"Pretty soon, Serena; pretty soon. Now let's talk about somethin' interestin'; about ourselves, for instance. How do you like bein' back here in Trumet? Ain't gettin' tired of it, are you? The old town doesn't seem stupid; hey?"

"No, indeed! Don't speak that way, Daniel."

"Well, I just mentioned it, that's all. Soon as you do get tired and want to see somethin' new, we'll take that cruise to Washin'ton or the Falls or somewheres. Never mind the price. Way I feel now I'd go to the moon if 'twould please you. Say the word and I'll hire the balloon to-morrow--or Monday, anyway; no business done in Trumet on Sunday."

Serena laughed again. "I shan't say it for a long while," she declared. "I am having such a good time. The house seems so snug and homey. And all our old friends and neighbors have been so kind. They seemed so glad to see us when we came, as if they were real friends, not the make-believe sort."

"Not the Annette kind, you mean. That particular breed of cats is scarce on the Cape--at least I hope it is."

"So do I. I never want to see her again. I am so glad they have sold their cottage here, and that the Fenholtzes have bought it--if they have bought it, as you say you heard. You always liked the Fenholtzes, Daniel. I did, too, or I should if Annette hadn't told me--"

"I know, I know. Some day that woman will tell the truth by accident and the Ladies of Honor crowd'll be mournin' a leadin' light that went out sudden. But never mind her. The folks here HAVE been nice to us, haven't they?"

"Indeed they have! And so thoughtful! Why, Sophronia Smalley even came to ask me if I wouldn't consider taking my old place as president of Trumet Chapter. She is president now, but she declared she would resign in a minute in my favor."

For an instant Captain Dan's exuberant spirits were dashed.

"She did!" he cried. "Well, if that woman ain't.... Humph! Are you thinkin' of lettin' her resign, Serena?"

"No."

"I--I wouldn't stand in your way if you did, you know. I mustn't be selfish. Trumet ain't Scarford, and if you want to--"

"I don't, I don't. I may attend a meeting once in a while, later on, but I never shall hold office again. I have had all the 'advancement' I want."

"Advancin' backwards, some folks would call what you're doin' now, Serena, I cal'late. There! I've said 'cal'late' again. I haven't said it before for a long time. This Cape sand has got into my grammar, I guess. I must be careful."

"You needn't be. Say 'cal'late' if you want to, I am not going to fret you about your grammar any more, Daniel. I've got over that, too. I'd rather have you, just as you are, than any other man in the world, grammar or no grammar."

"Whew! Hold on, old lady! If you talk that way I'll get so puffed up I'll bust into smoke when you touch me, like a dry toadstool. I--Hello! what was that? The train whistle, was it?"

"Yes. Here is the night train in; it is almost mail time, and no dinner yet. What IS the matter with Azuba? I'll speak to her."

She was rising to go to the dining-room, but her husband detained her.

"No, you wait; no, you mustn't," he said, hastily. "Sit right down, Serena. Speakin' of dinners, this talk of ours is like that everlastin' long meal that you and I went to at Barney Black's house just after we landed in Scarford. You remember it took half an hour to get to anything solid in that dinner, don't you? Yes, well, I'm just gettin' to the meat of my talk. And I want Gertie to come in on that course. She is on her way downstairs now; I hear her. Hi! Gertie! come in here, won't you!"

Gertrude entered the room.

"Where are you, Daddy?" she asked.

"Here I am, over here by the window."

"But why haven't you lighted the lamp? Why are you sitting here in the dark?"

Serena answered. "Goodness knows," she replied. "Your father would insist on it. I think he is going crazy; he has acted that way ever since lunch."

The demented one chuckled.

"You see, Gertie," he explained, "'twas on account of my bashfulness. Your mother, she wanted to sit along with me and hold hands, so--. Oh, all right; all right. You can show a glim now, Serena, if you want to. I'll cover up my blushes."

The maligned Mrs. Dott announced that she had a good mind to box his ears. "That's what I should do to a child," she added, "and nobody could act more childish than you have this afternoon."

"Second childhood, Serena. Second childhood and dodderin' old age are creepin' over me fast. There!" as the lamp blazed and the parlor was illuminated, "now you can see for yourself. Do I dodder much?"

Even Gertrude was obliged to laugh.

"Daddy!" she cried; "you silly thing! I believe you ARE getting childish."

"Am I? All right, I'm willing to be, at the price. My! Gertie, you look awfully pretty. Don't she look 'specially pretty to you to-night, Serena?"

Serena smiled. "That gown was always becoming," she said.

"I know it was; that's why I wanted her to put it on. And she's fixed her hair the way I like, too. My! my! if some folks I know could see you now, Gertie, they'd.... Ahem! Well, never mind. She looks as if she was expectin' company and had rigged up for it, doesn't she, Serena?"

Gertrude paid little attention to this rather strained attempt at a joke. She merely smiled and turned away. But her mother appeared to suspect a hidden meaning in the words. She leaned forward and gazed at her husband.

"Daniel," she cried, sharply and with increasing excitement; "Daniel Dott, what are you--"

The captain waved her to silence. She would have spoken in spite of it, but his second wave and shake of the head were so emphatic that she hesitated. Before the moment of hesitation was at an end Captain Dan himself began to speak. He spoke in a new tone now and more and more rapidly.

"Serena, don't interrupt me," he ordered. "Gertie, listen. I'm goin' to tell you both a story. Once there was a couple of married folks that had a daughter.... Hush, I tell you! Listen, both of you. I AIN'T crazy. If ever I talked sense in my life I'm talkin' it now.... This couple, as I say, had a daughter. This daughter was engaged to be married. The old folks moved away from the place they had always lived and went somewhere else. There they both commenced to make fools of themselves. The place was all right enough, maybe, but they didn't belong in it. The daughter, she came there and she saw how things were goin' and, says she: 'I'll fix 'em. I'll cure 'em and save 'em, too, by showin' 'em an example, my example. I'll--'"

Gertrude broke in.

"Daddy," she cried, with a warning glance at her mother, "be careful. Don't be silly. What is the use--"

"Hush! Hush and be still! Never mind what she did. All is, she showed 'em and she cured 'em and she saved 'em. But meanwhile her meddlesome old father had got worried, not understandin' what was goin' on, and he put his oar in. He wrote for the young chap she was engaged to to come down and help cure HER. The father meant all right. He--"

Again the young lady interrupted.

"Mother," she said, "this is nonsense, the way father is telling it. I meant to tell you, myself, by and by. I'm sure you have guessed it, anyway, but--"

"There's one part she hasn't guessed," shouted Captain Dan; "or that you haven't guessed either, Gertie, God bless you. _I guessed it myself, this very day, and I guessed it because I had a letter from Labe Ginn up at Scarford that put me on the right track. Gertie, that letter you wrote to John WASN'T mailed; the postman DIDN'T get it; John himself never got it."

"Daddy! Daddy, what--"

"Wait! wait! How do I know? you were goin' to say. I know because I know who did get it. Cousin Percy Hungerford--confound his miserable, worthless hulk! HE got it; he stole it from my table, where it laid along with my other letters, when I was out of the room. And--wait! that isn't all. John DID write you, Gertie. He wrote you two or three times and he telegraphed you once. And you didn't get either letters or telegram because that Hapgood butler--Oh, if I had only known this when I chased him out of the back yard! He'd have gone over the fence instead of through the gate--he was helpin' our dear cousin and gettin' paid for it, and HE stole 'em. There! that's the truth and.... My soul! I believe I've scared the girl to death."

He sprang forward. Serena, too, although she was almost as much surprised and agitated as her daughter, hastened to the latter's side.

But Gertrude, although white and shaken, was far from being "scared to death." She was very much alive.

"Are you sure, Daddy?" she cried. "Are you SURE? How do you know?"

"I know because Labe wrote that Hapgood told him. That's how I know about the telegram. And I know that's what happened to your letter because John didn't get it."

"How do you know he didn't get it? Please, Mother, don't worry about me. I am all right. How do you know John didn't get my letter, Father?"

"I know because.... Is that a wagon stoppin' at our gate, Serena?"

"Never mind if it is. Answer Gertie's question. HOW do you know?"

Steps sounded on the front porch. Captain Dan strode to the hall and stood with one hand on the knob of the front door.

"I know," he declared triumphantly, "because I telephoned John this very day and he told me so. And now, by the everlastin', he'll tell you so himself!"

He flung the door wide.

"Come in, John!" he shouted, in a roar which was heard even by deaf old Ebenezer Simpkins, driver of the depot wagon, who was just piloting his ancient steed from the Dott gate. "Come in, John!" roared Captain Dan. "There she is, in there, waitin' for you."

And Mr. Doane came, you may be sure.

Serena and Daniel waited in the dining-room. They were obliged to wait for some time. The captain's triumphant exuberance continued to bubble over. He chuckled and laughed and crowed vaingloriously over his success in keeping the secret ever since noon.

"I was bound I wouldn't tell, Serena," he declared. "I was bound I wouldn't. I told John over the 'phone; I said: 'I won't tell a soul you're comin', John. We'll give 'em one surprise, won't we.' And, ho! ho! he didn't believe I could keep it to myself; he said he didn't. But I did, I did--though I felt all afternoon as if I had a bombshell under my jacket."

Serena laughed; she was as pleased as he. "You certainly exploded it like a bombshell," she declared. "I didn't know at first but that you really had gone crazy. And poor Gertie! you didn't prepare her at all. You blurted it out all at once. The words fairly tumbled over each other. I wonder she didn't faint."

"She isn't the faintin' kind. Serena, we never can be grateful enough to Gertie for what she's done for us. And she sacrificed her own happiness--or thought she did--for you and me and didn't whimper or complain once."

"I know, Daniel, I know. And pretty soon now we must give her up to someone else. That's the way of the world, though. WE'LL have to be brave then, won't we."

"So we will. But I'd rather give her to John than any other man on earth. The thought that it was all off between them and that she was grievin' over it was about the hardest thing of all."

"So it was. Well, now we can be completely happy, every one of us."

Azuba flounced in from the kitchen. "Ain't they come out of that parlor YET?" she demanded. "I can't keep roast chicken waitin' forever, even for engaged folks."

But the "engaged folks" themselves appeared at that moment. As one of those who, according to Mrs. Dott, were to be completely happy, Mr. Doane looked his part. Gertrude, too, although her eyes were wet, was smiling.

John and the Dotts shook hands. Daniel turned to his daughter.

"Well, Gertie," he asked, "are you ready to forgive me for what happened on account of my sendin' that summons to John--that one up in Scarford, I mean?"

"I think so, Daddy."

"I thought maybe you would be, considerin'," with a wink at Mr. Doane, "the answer you got to my telephone to-day. But, see here, young lady, I want to ask you somethin' and I expect a straight answer. Can I keep a secret, or can't I?"

"You can, Daddy, dear. You kept this one almost seven hours."

"Eight! eight, by Godfreys! 'Twas a strain, but I kept it."

"You managed it all beautifully, Daniel," declared Serena. "I am proud of you."

"We're all proud of you, Captain Dan," said John.

The captain smiled happily.

"Much obliged," he said, "but I ain't the one you ought to be proud of. When it comes to real managin' I ain't knee-high to the ship's cat alongside of Gertie there. She's the one who pulled this family through. No sir-ee! if you've got any time to spare bein' proud of folks, don't be proud of Cap'n Dan, but of Cap'n Dan's daughter. Sit down, all hands. Here comes dinner--at last."


(THE END)
Joseph Crosby Lincoln's Novel: Cap'n Dan's Daughter

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