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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThankful's Inheritance - Chapter 9
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Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 9 Post by :Betty Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :2192

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Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 9


The August days were busy ones at the High Cliff House. Every room was filled and the tables in the dining-room well crowded. Thankful told Captain Bangs that she could not spare time even to look out of the window. "And yet Emily and I are about the only ones who don't look out," she added. "There's enough goin' on to look at, that's sartin."

There was indeed. Mr. E. Holliday Kendrick having taken possession of his new estate, immediately set about the improving and enlarging which Mr. Daniels had quoted him as contemplating. Carpenters, painters and gardeners were at work daily. The Kendrick motor cars and the Kendrick servants were much in evidence along East Wellmouth's main road. What had been done by the great man and his employees and what would be done in the near future kept the gossips busy. He was planning a new rose garden--"the finest from Buzzard's Bay down"; he had torn out the "whole broadside" of the music-room and was "cal'latin'" to make it twice as large as formerly; he was to build a large conservatory on the knoll by the stables. Hannah Parker declared she could not see the need of this. "There's a tower onto the main buildin' already," she said, "pretty nigh as high as a lighthouse. I should think a body could see fur enough from that tower, without riggin' up a conservatory. Well, Mrs. Kendrick needn't ask ME to go up in it. I went to the top of the conservatory on Scargo Hill one time and I was so dizzy in the head I thought sure I'd fall right over the railin'."

The High Cliff boarders--Miss Timpson and Caleb Hammond especially--spent a great deal of time peering from the living-room windows and watching what they called the "goin's on" at the Kendrick estate. Occasionally they caught a glimpse of E. Holliday himself. The great man was inclined to greatness even in the physical meaning of the word, for he was tall and stout, and dignified, not to say pompous. Arrayed in white flannels he issued orders to his hirelings and the hirelings obeyed him. When one is monarch of the larger portion of all he surveys it must be gratifying to feel that one looks the part. E. Holliday looked it and apparently felt it.

Thankful, during this, her most prosperous season, was active from morning until night. When that night came she was ready for sleep, ready for more than she could afford to take. Emily was invaluable as manager and assistant, and Captain Obed Bangs assisted and advised in every way that he could. The captain had come to be what Mrs. Barnes called the "sheet anchor" of the High Cliff House. Whenever the advice of a man, or a man's help was needed, it was to Captain Bangs that she turned. And Captain Obed was always only too glad to help. Hannah Parker declared he spent more time at the boarding house than he did at her home.

If Emily Howes noticed how frequently the captain called--and it is probable that she did--she said nothing about it. John Kendrick must have noticed it, for occasionally, when he and Captain Obed were alone, he made an irrelevant remark like the following:

"Captain," he said, on one occasion, "I think you're growing younger every day."

"Who? Me? Go on, John! How you talk! I'm so old my timbers creak every time I go up a flight of stairs. They'll be sendin' me to the junk pile pretty soon."

"I guess not. You're as young as I am, every bit. Not in years, perhaps, but in spirit and energy. And you surprise me, too. I didn't know you were such a lady's man."

"Me? A lady's man? Tut, tut! Don't talk foolish. If I've cruised alone all these years I cal'late that's proof enough of how much a lady's man I am."

"That's no proof. You haven't happened upon the right sort of consort, that's all. Look at Brother Daniels; he is a bachelor, too, but everyone knows what a lady's man he is."

"Humph! You ain't comparin' me to Heman Daniels, are you?"

"No. No, of course not. I shouldn't dare. Comparing any mortal with Daniels would be heresy, wouldn't it? But you certainly are popular with the fair sex. Why, even Imogene has fallen under the influence. She says Mrs. Barnes thinks you are the finest man in the world."

"She does, hey? Well," tartly, "she better mind her own affairs. I thought she rated Kenelm Parker about as high as anybody these days. He spends more time in that kitchen of hers--"

"There, there, Captain! Don't sidestep. The fair Imogene may be susceptible to Mr. Parker's charms, but that is probably because you haven't smiled upon her. If you--"

"Say, look here, John Kendrick! If you keep on talkin' loony in this way I'll begin to heave out a few hints myself. I may be as popular as you say, with Imogene and--and the help, but I know somebody else that is catchin' the same disease."

"Meaning Mr. Daniels, I suppose? He is popular, I admit."

"Is he? Well, you ought to know best. Seems to me I can call to mind somebody else that is fairly popular--in some latitudes. By the way, John, you don't seem to be as popular with Heman as you was at first."

"I'm sorry. My accepting my cousin's retainer may--"

"Oh, I didn't mean that. What was you and Emily doin' at Chris Badger's store yesterday afternoon?"

"Doing? Yesterday? Oh, yes! I did meet Miss Howes while I was on my way to the office and I waited while she did a little marketing. What in the world--"

"Nothin'. Fur's that goes I don't think either of you knew you was IN the world. I passed right by and you didn't see me. Heman saw you, too. What was your marketin'--vegetables?"

"I believe so. Captain, you're sidestepping again. It was of you, not me, I was speaking when--"

"Yes, I know. Well, I'm speakin' about you now. Heman saw you buyin' them vegetables. Tomatters, wa'n't they?"

"Perhaps so. Have you been drinking? What difference does it make whether we bought tomatoes or potatoes?"

"Didn't make none--to me. But I bet Heman didn't like to see you two buyin' tomatters."

"For heaven's sake, why not?"

"Oh, 'cause he probably remembered, same as I did, what folks used to call 'em in the old days."

"You HAVE been drinking! What did they use to call them?"

"Love apples," replied Captain Obed, and strode away chuckling. John watched him go. He, too, laughed at first, but his laugh broke off in the middle and when he went into the house his expression was troubled and serious.

One remark of the captain's was true enough; John Kendrick's popularity with his professional rival was growing daily less. The pair were scrupulously polite to each other, but they seldom spoke except when others were present, and Mr. Daniels made it a point apparently to be present whenever Miss Howes was in the room. He continued to bring his little offerings of fruit and flowers and his invitations for drives and picnics and entertainments at the town hall were more frequent. Sometimes Emily accepted these invitations; more often she refused them. John also occasionally invited her to drive with him or to play tennis on his cousin's courts, and these invitations she treated as she did Heman's, refusing some and accepting others. She treated the pair with impartiality and yet Thankful was growing to believe there was a difference. Imogene, outspoken, expressed her own feelings in the matter when she said,

"Miss Emily likes Mr. Kendrick pretty well, don't she, ma'am?"

Thankful regarded her maidservant with disapproval.

"What makes you say that, Imogene?" she demanded. "Of course she likes him. Why shouldn't she?"

"She should, ma'am. And she does, too. And he likes her; that's plain enough."

"Imogene, what are you hintin' at? Do you mean that my cousin is in--in love with Mr. John Kendrick?"

"No'm. I don't say that, not yet. But there's signs that--"

"Signs! If you don't get those ridiculous story-book notions out of your head I don't know what I'll do to you. What do you know about folks bein' in love? You ain't in love, I hope; are you?"

Imogene hesitated. "No, ma'am," she replied. "I ain't. But--but maybe I might be, if I wanted to."

"For mercy sakes! The girl's crazy. You MIGHT be--if you wanted to! Who with? If you're thinkin' of marryin' anybody seems to me I ought to know it. Why, you ain't met more'n a dozen young fellers in this town, and I've taken good care to know who they were. If you're thinkin' of fallin' in love--or marryin'--"

Imogene interrupted. "I ain't," she declared. "And, anyhow, ma'am, gettin' married don't necessarily mean you're in love."

"It don't! Well, this beats all I ever--"

"No, ma'am, it don't. Sometimes it's a person's duty to get married."

Thankful gasped. "Duty!" she repeated. "You HAVE been readin' more of those books, in spite of your promisin' me you wouldn't."

"No, ma'am, I ain't. Honest, I ain't."

"Then what do you mean? Imogene, what man do you care enough for to make you feel it's your--your duty to marry him?"

"No man at all," declared Imogene, promptly and decisively. And that is all she would say on the subject.

Thankful repeated this astonishing conversation, or part of it, to Emily. The latter considered it a good joke. "That girl is a strange creature," she said, "and great fun. You never can tell what she will say or think. She is very romantic and that nonsense about duty and the rest of it undoubtedly is taken from some story she has read. You needn't worry, Auntie. Imogene worships you, and she will never leave you--to be married, or for any other reason."

So Thankful did not worry about Imogene. She had other worries, those connected with a houseful of boarders, and these were quite sufficient. And now came another. Kenelm Parker was threatening to leave her employ.

The statement is not strictly true. Kenelm, himself, never threatened to do anything. But another person did the threatening for him and that person was his sister. Hannah Parker, for some unaccountable reason, seemed to be developing a marked prejudice against the High Cliff House. Her visits to the premises were not less frequent than formerly, but they were confined to the yard and stable; she no longer called at the house. Her manner toward Emily and Thankful was cordial enough perhaps, but there was constraint in it and she asked a good many questions concerning her brother's hours of labor, what he did during the day, and the like.

"She acts awful queer, seems to me," said Thankful. "Not the way she did at first at all. In the beginnin' I had to plan pretty well to keep her from runnin' in and sp'ilin' my whole mornin' with her talk. Now she seems to be keepin' out of my way. What we've done to make her act so I can't see, and neither can Emily."

Captain Bangs, to whom this remark was addressed, laughed.

"You ain't done anything, I guess," he said. "It ain't you she's down on; it's your hired girl, the Imogene one. She seems to be more down on that Imogene than a bow anchor on a mud flat. They don't hitch horses, those two. You see she tries to boss and condescend and Imogene gives her as good as she sends. It's got so that Hannah is actually scared of that girl; don't pretend to be, of course; calls her 'the inmate' and all sorts of names. But she is scared of her and don't like her."

Thankful was troubled. "I'm sorry," she said. "Imogene is independent, but she's an awful kind-hearted girl. I do hate trouble amongst neighbors."

"Oh, there won't be any trouble. Hannah's jealous, that's all the trouble--jealous about Kenelm. You see, she wanted him to come here to work so's she could have him under her thumb and run over and give him orders every few minutes. Imogene gives him orders, too, and he minds; she makes him. Hannah don't like that; 'cordin' to her notion Kenelm hadn't ought to have any skipper but her. It's all right, though, Mrs. Barnes. It's good for Kenelm and it's good for Hannah. Do 'em both good, I cal'late."

But when Kenelm announced that he wasn't sure but that he should "heave up his job" in a fortnight or so, the situation became more serious.

"He mustn't leave," declared Thankful. "August and early September are the times when I've got to have a man on the place, and you say yourself, Captain Bangs, that there isn't another man to be had just now. If he goes--"

"Oh, he won't go. This is more of Hannah's talk; she's put him up to this leavin' business. Offer him another dollar a week, if you have to, and I'll do some preachin' to Hannah, myself."

When Thankful mentioned the matter to Imogene the latter's comment was puzzling but emphatic.

"Don't you fret, ma'am," she said. "He ain't left yet."

"I know; but he says--"

"HE don't say it. It's that sister of his does all the sayin'. And SHE ain't workin' for you that I know of."

"Now, Imogene, we mustn't, any of us, interfere between Kenelm and his sister. She IS his sister, you know."

"Yes'm. But she isn't his mother and his grandmother and his aunt and all his relations. And, if she was, 'twouldn't make no difference. He's the one to say whether he's goin' to leave or not."

"But he does say it. That is, he--"

"He just says he 'cal'lates.' He never said he was GOIN' to do anything; not for years, anyhow. It's all right, Mrs. Thankful. You just wait and see. If worst comes to worst I've got a--"

She stopped short. "What have you got, Imogene?" asked Mrs. Barnes.

"Oh, nothin', ma'am. Only you just wait."

So Thankful waited and Kenelm, perfectly aware of the situation, and backed by the counsel of his sister, became daily more independent. He did only such work as he cared to do and his hours for arriving and departing were irregular, to say the least.

On the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of August the Ostable County Cattle Show and Fair was to be held at the county seat. The annual Cattle Show is a big event on the Cape and practically all of East Wellmouth was planning to attend. Most of the High Cliff boarders were going to the Fair and, Friday being the big day, they were going on Friday. Imogene asked for a holiday on that day. The request was granted. Then Kenelm announced that he and Hannah were cal'latin' to go. Thankful was somewhat reluctant; she felt that to be deprived of the services of both her hired man and maid on the same day might be troublesome. But as the Parker announcement was more in the nature of an ultimatum than a request, she said yes under protest. But when Captain Obed appeared and invited her and John Kendrick and Emily Howes to go to the Fair with him in a hired motor car she was more troubled than ever.

"I'd like to go, Cap'n," she said. "Oh, I WOULD like to go! I haven't had a day off since this place opened and I never rode in an automobile more'n three times in my life. But I can't do it. You and Emily and John can, of course, and you must; but I've got to stay here. Some of the boarders will be here for their meals and I can't leave the house alone."

Captain Obed uttered a dismayed protest.

"Sho!" he exclaimed. "Sho! That's too bad. Why, I counted more on your goin' than--Humph! You've just got to go, that's all. Can't Imogene look after the house?"

"She could if she was goin' to be here, but she's goin' to the Fair herself. I promised her she could and I must keep my promise."

"Yes, yes; I presume likely you must. But now, Mrs. Thankful--"

"I'm afraid there can't be any 'but,' Cap'n. You and Mr. Kendrick and Emily go and I'll get my fun thinkin' what a good time you'll have."

She was firm and at last the captain yielded. But his keen disappointment was plainly evident. He said but little during his stay at the boarding-house and went home early, glum and disconsolate. At the Parker domicile he found Kenelm and his sister in a heated argument.

"I don't care, Hannah," vowed Kenelm. "I'm a-goin' to that Fair, no matter if I do have to go alone. Didn't you tell me I was goin'? Didn't you put me up to askin' for the day off? Didn't you--"

"Never mind what I did. I give in I had planned for you to go, but that was when I figgered on you and me goin' together. Now that Mr. Hammond has invited me to go along with him--"

Captain Obed interrupted. "Hello! Hello!" he exclaimed. "What's this? Has Caleb Hammond offered to go gallivantin' off to the Ostable Cattle Show along with you, Hannah? Well, well! Wonders'll never cease. Caleb's gettin' gay in his old age, ain't he? Humph! there'll be somethin' else for the postoffice gang to talk about, first thing you know. Hannah, I'm surprised!"

Miss Parker colored and seemed embarrassed. Her brother, however, voiced his disgust.

"Surprised!" he repeated. "Huh! That's nuthin' to what I am. I'm more'n surprised--I'm paralyzed. To think of that tightfisted old fool lettin' go of money enough to hire a horse and team and--"

"Kenelm!" Hannah's voice quivered with indignation. "Kenelm Parker! The idea!"

"Yes, that's what I say, the idea! Here's an old critter--yes, he is old, too. He's so nigh seventy he don't dast look at the almanac for fear he'll find it's past his birthday. And he's always been so tight with money that he'd buy second-hand postage stamps if the Gov'ment wouldn't catch him. And his wife's been dead a couple of hundred year, more or less, and yet, by thunder-mighty, all to once he starts in--"

"Kenelm Parker, you stop this minute! I'm ashamed of you. Mr. Hammond's a real, nice, respectable man. As to his money--well, that's his business anyhow, and, besides, he ain't hirin' the horse and buggy; he's goin' to borrow it off his nephew over to the Centre. His askin' me to go is a real neighborly act."

"Huh! If he's so plaguy neighborly why don't he ask me to go, too? I'm as nigh a neighbor as you be, ain't I?"

"He don't ask you because the buggy won't hold but two, and you know it. I should think you'd be glad to have me save the expense of my fare. Winnie S. would charge me fifty cents to take me to the depot, and the fare on the excursion train is--"

"Now what kind of talk's that! I ain't complainin' 'cause you save the expense. And I don't care if you go along with all the old men from here to Joppa. What I'm sayin' is that I'm goin' to that Fair tomorrow. I can go alone in the cars, I guess. There won't nobody kidnap me, as I know of."

"But, Kenelm, I don't like to have you over there all by yourself. It'll be so lonesome for you. If you'll only wait maybe I'll go again, myself. Maybe we could both go together on Saturday."

"I don't want to go Saturday; I want to go tomorrow. Tomorrow's the big day, when they have the best horse-racin'. Why, Darius Holt is cal'latin' to make money tomorrow. He's got ten dollars bet on Exie B. in the second race and--"

"Kenelm Parker! Is THAT what you want to go to that Cattle Show for? To bet on horse trots! To gamble!"

"Aw, dry up. How'd I gamble? You don't let me have money enough to put in the collection box Sundays, let alone gamblin'. I have to shove my fist clear way down to the bottom of the plate whenever they pass it for fear Heman Daniels'll see that I'm only lettin' go of a nickel. Aw, Hannah, have some sense, won't you! I'd just as soon go to that Fair alone as not. I won't be lonesome. Lots of folks I know are goin'; men and women, too."

"Women? What women?"

"Oh, I don't know. How should I know?"

"Well--well, I suppose likely they are. Imogene said she was goin' and--"

"Imogene! You mean that hired inmate over to Thankful Barnes'? Humph! So she told you she was goin', hey? Well, most likely she told a fib. I wouldn't trust her not to; sassy, impudent thing! I don't believe she's goin' at all. Is she, Cap'n Bangs?"

The captain, who had remained silent during this family jar, could not resist the temptation.

"Oh yes, Imogene's goin'," he answered, cheerfully. "She's countin' on havin' the time of her life over there. But she isn't the only one. Why, about all the females in East Wellmouth'll be there. I heard Abbie Larkin arrangin' for her passage with Winnie S. yesterday afternoon. Win said, 'Judas priest!' He didn't know where he was goin' to put her, but he cal'lated he'd have to find stowage room somewhere. Oh, Kenelm won't be lonesome, Hannah. I shouldn't worry about that."

Kenelm looked as if he wished the speaker might choke. Hannah straightened in her chair.

"Hum!" she mused. "Hum!" and was silent for a moment. Then she asked:

"Is Mrs. Thankful goin', too? I suppose likely she is."

The captain's cheerfulness vanished.

"No," he said, shortly, "she isn't. She wanted to, but she doesn't feel she can leave the boardin'-house with nobody to look after it."

Miss Parker seemed pleased, for some reason or other.

"I don't wonder," she said, heartily. "She shouldn't be left all alone herself, either. If that ungrateful, selfish Orphan's Home minx is selfish enough to go and leave her, all the more reason my brother shouldn't. Whatever else us Parkers may be, we ain't selfish. We think about others. Kenelm, dear, you must stay at work and help Mrs. Barnes around the house tomorrow. You and I'll go to the Fair on Saturday. I don't mind; I'd just as soon go twice as not."

Kenelm sprang to his feet. He was so angry that he stuttered.

"You--you--YOU don't care!" he shouted. "'Cause you're goin' TWICE! That's a divil of a don't care, that is!"

"Kenelm! My own brother! Cursin' and swearin'!"

"I ain't, and--and I don't care if I be! What's the matter with you, Hannah Parker? One minute you're sailin' into me tellin' me to heave up my job and not demean myself doin' odd jobs in a boardin'-house barn. And the next minute you're tellin' me I ought to stay to home and--and help out that very boardin'-house. I won't! By--by thunder-mighty, I won't! I'm goin' to that Cattle Show tomorrow if it takes my last cent."

Hannah smiled. "How many last cents have you got, Kenelm?" she asked. "You was doin' your best to borrer a quarter of me this mornin'."

"I've got more'n you have. I--I--everything there is here--yes, and every cent there is here--belongs to me by rights. You ain't got nothin' of your own."

Miss Parker turned upon him. "To think," she wailed, brokenly, "to think that my own brother--all the brother I've got--can stand afore me and heave my--my poverty in my face. I may be dependent on him. I am, I suppose. But Oh, the disgrace of it! the--Oh! Oh! Oh!"

Captain Obed hurried upstairs to his room. Long after he had shut the door he heard the sounds of Hannah's sobs and Kenelm's pleadings that he "never meant nothin'." Then came silence and, at last, the sounds of footsteps on the stairs. They halted in the upper hall.

"I don't know, Kenelm," said Hannah, sadly. "I'll try to forgive you. I presume likely I must. But when I think of how I've been a mother to you--"

"Now, Hannah, there you go again. How could you be my mother when you ain't but four year older'n I be? You just give me a few dollars and let me go to that Cattle Show and--"

"No, Kenelm, that I can't do. You are goin' to leave Mrs. Barnes' place; I want you to do that, for the sake of your self-respect. But you must stay there and help her tomorrow. It's your duty."

"Darn my duty! I'll LEAVE tomorrow, that's what I'll do."

"Oh dear! There you go again. Profane language and bettin' on horses! WHAT'LL come next? My own brother a gambler and a prodigate! Has it come to this?"

The footsteps and voices died away. Captain Obed blew out the light and got into bed. The last words he heard that night were uttered by the "prodigate" himself on his way to his sleeping quarters. And they were spoken as a soliloquy.

"By time!" muttered Kenelm, as he shuffled slowly past the Captain's door. "By time! I--I'll do somethin' desperate!"

Next morning, when Captain Obed's hired motor car, with its owner, a Wellmouth Centre man, acting as chauffeur, rolled into the yard of the High Cliff House, a party of three came out to meet it. John Kendrick and Emily Howes were of the party and they were wrapped and ready for the trip. The captain had expected them; but the third, also dressed for the journey, was Mrs. Thankful Barnes. Thankful's plump countenance was radiant.

"I'm goin' after all," she announced. "I'm goin' to the Fair with you, Cap'n Bangs. Now what do you think of that? . . . That is," she added, looking at the automobile, "if you can find a place to put me."

The captain's joy was as great as his surprise. "Place to put you!" he repeated. "If I couldn't do anything else I'd hang on behind, like a youngster to a truck wagon, afore you stayed at home. Good for you, Mrs. Thankful! But how'd you come to change your mind? Thought you couldn't leave."

Thankful smiled happily. "I didn't change my mind, Cap'n," she said. "Imogene changed hers. She's a real, good sacrificin' body, the girl is. When she found I'd been asked and wouldn't go, she put her foot down flat. Nothin' would do but she should stay at home today and I should go. I knew what a disappointment 'twas to her, but she just made me do it. She'll go tomorrow instead; that's the way we fixed it finally. I'm awful glad for myself, but I do feel mean about Imogene, just the same."

A few minutes later, the auto, with John, Emily and Thankful on the rear seat and Captain Obed in front with the driver, rolled out of the yard and along the sandy road toward Wellmouth Centre. About a mile from the latter village it passed a buggy with two people in it. The pair in the buggy were Caleb Hammond and Hannah Parker.

Captain Obed chuckled. "There go the sweethearts," he observed. "Handsome young couple, ain't they?"

The other occupants of the car joined in the laugh. Emily, in particular, was greatly amused.

"Why do you call them sweethearts, Captain?" she asked. "You don't really suppose--"

The captain burst into a laugh.

"What? Those two?" he said. "No, no, I was only jokin'. I don't know about Hannah--single women her age are kind of chancey--but I do know Caleb. He ain't takin' a wife to support, not unless she can support him. He had a chance to use a horse and buggy free for nothin', that's all; and it would be against his principles to let a chance like that go by. Cal'late he took Hannah 'cause he knew ice cream and peanuts don't agree with her dyspepsy and so he wouldn't have to buy any. Ho, ho! I wonder how Kenelm made out? Wonder if he went on his own hook, after all?"

In the kitchen of the High Cliff House Imogene was washing the breakfast dishes and trying to forget her disappointment. A step sounded in the woodshed and, turning, she beheld Mr. Parker. He saw her at the same time and the surprise was mutual.

"Why, hello!" exclaimed Imogene. "I thought you'd gone to the Fair."

"Hello!" cried Kenelm. "Thought you'd gone to the Cattle Show."

Explanations followed. "What ARE you cal'latin' to do, then?" demanded Kenelm, moodily.

"Me? Stay here on my job, of course. That's what you're goin' to do, too, ain't it?"

Mr. Parker thrust his hands into his pockets.

"No, by time, I ain't!" he declared, fiercely. "I ain't got any job no more. I've quit, I have."

"Quit! You mean you ain't goin' to work for Mrs. Thankful?"

"I ain't gain' to work for nobody. Why should I? I've got money enough to live on, ain't I? I've got an income of my own. I ain't told Mrs. Thankful yet, but I have quit, just the same."

Imogene put down the dishcloth.

"This is your sister's doin's, I guess likely," she observed.

"No, it ain't! If--if it was, by time, I wouldn't do it! Hannah treats me like a dog--yes, sir, like a dog. I'm goin' to show her. A man's got some feelin's, if he is a dog."

"How are you goin' to show her?"

"I don't know, but I be. I'll run away, if I can't do nothin' else. I'll show her I'm sick of her bossin'."

Imogene seemed to be thinking. She regarded Mr. Parker with a steady and reflective stare.

"What are you lookin' at me like that for?" demanded Kenelm, after the stare had become unbearable.

"I was thinkin'. Humph! What would you do to fix it so's your sister would stop her bossin' and you could have your own way once in a while?"

"Do? By time, I'd do anything! Anything, by thunder-mighty!"

"You would? You mean it?"

"You bet I mean it!"

"Would you promise to stay right here and work for Mrs. Thankful as long as she wanted you to?"

"Course I would. I ain't anxious to leave. It's Hannah that's got that notion. Fust she was dead sot on my workin' here and now she's just as sot on my leavin'."

"Do you know why she's so--what do you call it?--sot?"

Kenelm fidgeted and looked foolish. "Well," he admitted, "I--I wouldn't wonder if 'twas account of you, Imogene. Hannah knows I--I like you fust rate, that we're good friends, I mean. She's--well, consarn it all!--she's jealous, that's what's the matter. She's awful silly that way. I can't so much as look at a woman, but she acts like a plumb idiot. Take that Abbie Larkin, for instance. One time she--ho, ho! I did kind of get ahead of her then, though."

Imogene nodded. "Yes," she said; "I heard about that. Well, maybe you can get ahead of her again. You wait a minute."

She went into the living-room. When she came back she had an ink-bottle, a pen and a sheet of note-paper in her hands.

"What's them things for?" demanded Mr. Kenelm.

"I'll tell you pretty soon. Kenelm, you--you asked me somethin' a while ago, didn't you?"

Kenelm started. "Why--why, Imogene," he stammered, "I--I don't know's I know what you mean."

"I guess you know, all right. You did ask me--or, anyhow, you would if I hadn't said no before you had the chance. You like me pretty well, don't you, Kenelm?"

This pointed question seemed to embarrass Mr. Parker greatly. He turned red and glanced at the door.

"Why--why, yes, I like you fust rate, Imogene," he admitted. "I--I don't know's I ever see anybody I liked better. But when it comes to--You see, that time when I said--er--er what I said I was kind of--of desperate along of Hannah and--"

"Well, you're desperate now, ain't you? Here," sharply, "you sit still and let me finish. I've got a plan and you'd better listen to it. Kenelm, won't you sit still, for--for my sake?"

The "big day" of the Ostable County Cattle Show and Fair came to an end as all days, big or little, have to come. Captain Obed Bangs and his guests enjoyed every minute of it. They inspected the various exhibits, witnessed the horse races and the baseball game, saw the balloon ascension, and thrilled with the rest of the great crowd at the "parachute drop." It was six o'clock when they left the Fair grounds and Thankful began to worry about the condition of affairs at the High Cliff House.

"It'll be way past dinner time when you and I get there, Emily," she said, "and goodness knows what my boarders have had to eat. Imogene's smart and capable enough, but whether she can handle everything alone I don't know. We ought to have started sooner, but it's nobody's fault more'n mine that we didn't."

However, when the High Cliff House was reached its proprietor found that her fears were groundless. But a few of the boarders had planned to eat their evening meal there; most of the city contingent were stopping at various teahouses and restaurants in Ostable or along the road and would not be home until late.

"Everything's fine, ma'am," declared Imogene. "There was only three or four here for supper and I fixed them all right. Mr. Hammond came in late, but I fed him up and he's gone to bed. Tired out, I guess. I asked him if he had a good time and he said he had, but it cost him a sight of money."

Captain Obed laughed. "Caleb will have to do without his mornin' newspapers for quite a spell to make up for today's extravagance," he declared. "That's what 'tis to take the girls around. Better take warnin', John."

John Kendrick smiled. "Considering," he said, "that you and I have almost come to blows before I was permitted to even buy a package of popcorn with my own money, I think you need the warning more than I, Cap'n Bangs."

"Imogene," said Thankful, "you've been a real, nice girl today; you've helped me out a lot and I shan't forget it. Now you go to bed and rest, so's to feel like gettin' an early start for the Fair tomorrow."

Imogene shook her head. "I can't go right now, thank you, ma'am," she said. "I've got company."

Emily and Thankful looked at each other.

"Company!" repeated the former. "What company?"

Before Imogene could answer the dining-room door was flung open and Hannah Parker rushed in. She was still arrayed in her Sunday gown, which she had donned in honor of Fair Day, but her Sunday bonnet was, as Captain Obed said afterward, "canted down to leeward" and her general appearance indicated alarm and apprehension.

"Why, Hannah!" exclaimed Thankful. "Why, Miss Parker, what's the matter?"

Hannah's glance swept the group before her; then it fastened upon Imogene.

"Where's my brother?" she demanded. "Have you seen my brother?"

Captain Bangs broke in.

"Your brother? Kenelm?" he asked. "Why, what about Kenelm? Ain't he to home?"

"No. No, he ain't. And he ain't been home, either. I left a cold supper for him on the table, and I put the teapot on the rack of the stove ready for him to bile. But he ain't been there. It ain't been touched. I--I can't think what--"

Imogene interrupted. "Your brother's all right, Miss Parker," she said, calmly. "He's been havin' supper with me out in the kitchen. He's there now. He's the company I said I had, Mrs. Thankful."

Hannah stared at her. Imogene returned the gaze coolly, blandly and with a serene air of confident triumph.

"Perhaps you'd better come out and see him, ma'am," she went on. "He--we, that is--have got somethin' to tell you. The rest can come, too, if they want to," she added. "It's nothin' we want to keep from you."

Hannah Parker pushed by her and rushed for the kitchen. Imogene followed her and the others followed Imogene. As Thankful said, describing her own feelings, "I couldn't have stayed behind if I wanted to. My feet had curiosity enough to go by themselves."

Kenelm, who had been sitting by the kitchen table before a well-filled plate, had heard his sister's approach and had risen. When Mrs. Barnes and the others reached the kitchen he had backed into a corner.

"Kenelm Parker," demanded Hannah, "what are you doin' here, this time of night?"

"I--I been eatin' supper," stammered Kenelm, "but I--I'm through now."

"Through! Didn't you know your supper was waitin' for you at home? Didn't I tell you to come home early and have MY supper ready? Didn't--"

Imogene interrupted. "I guess you did, ma'am," she said, "but you see I asked him to stay here, so he stayed."

"YOU asked him! And he stayed! Well, I must say! Kenelm, have you been eatin' supper alone with that--with that--"

She was too greatly agitated to finish, but as Kenelm did not answer, Imogene did, without waiting.

"Yes'm," she said, soothingly. "It's all right. Kenelm and me can eat together, if we want to, I guess. We're engaged."

"ENGAGED!" Almost everyone said it--everyone except Hannah; she could not say anything.

"Yes," replied Imogene. "We're engaged to be married. We are, aren't we, Kenelm?"

Kenelm tried to back away still further, but the wall was behind him and he could only back against it. He was pale and he swallowed several times.

"Kenelm, dear," said Imogene, "didn't you hear me? Tell your sister about our bein' engaged."

Kenelm's mouth opened and shut. "Eh--eh--" he stammered. "I--I--"

"Don't be bashful," urged Imogene. "We're engaged to be married, ain't we?"

Mr. Parker gulped, choked and then nodded. "Yes," he admitted, faintly. "I--I cal'late we be."

His sister took a step forward, her arm raised. Captain Obed stepped in front of her.

"Just a minute, Hannah! Heave to! Come up into the wind a jiffy. Let's get this thing straight. Kenelm, do you mean--"

The gentleman addressed seemed to mean very little, just then. But Imogene's coolness was quite unruffled and again she answered for him.

"He means just what he said," she declared, "and what he said was plain enough, I should think. I don't know why there should be so much row about it. Mr. Parker and I have been good friends ever since I come here to work. He's asked me to marry him some time or other and I said maybe I would. That makes us engaged, same's I've been tryin' to tell you. And what all this row is about I can't see. It's our business, ain't it? I can't see as it's anybody else's."

But Hannah was by this time beyond holding back. She pushed aside the captain's arm and faced the engaged couple. Her eyes flashed and her fingers twitched.

"You--you designin' critter you!" she shouted, addressing Imogene. "You plannin', schemin', underhanded--"

"Shh! shh!" put in Captain Obed. "Easy, Hannah! easy, there!"

"I shan't be easy! You mind your own affairs, Obed Bangs! Kenelm Parker, how dare you say--how dare you tell me you're goin' to marry this--this INMATE? What do you mean by it?"

Poor Kenelm only gurgled. His lady love once more came to his rescue.

"He's told you times enough what he means," she asserted, firmly. "And I'll thank you not to call me names, either. In the first place I won't stand it; and, in the second, if you and me are goin' to be sisters-in-law, we'd better learn how to get along peaceable together. I--"

"Don't you talk to me! Don't you DARE talk to me! I might have expected it! I did expect it. So this is why you two didn't go to the Fair? You had this all planned between you. I was to be got out of the way, and--"

"That's enough of that, too. There wasn't any plannin' about it--not until today, anyhow. I didn't know he wasn't goin' to the Fair and he didn't know I wasn't. He would have gone only--only you deserted him to go off with your own--your own gentleman friend. Humph! I should think you would look ashamed!"

Miss Parker's "shame"--or her feelings, whatever they might be--seemed to render her speechless. Her brother saw his chance.

"You know that's just what you done, Hannah," he put in, pleadingly. "You know you did. I was so lonesome--"

"Hush! Hush, Kenelm!" ordered Imogene. "You left him alone to go with another man, Miss Parker. For all he knew you might be--be runnin' off to be married, or somethin'. So he come to where he had a friend, that's all. And what if he did? He can get married, if he wants to, can't he? I'd like to know who'd stop him. He's over twenty-one, I guess."

This speech was too much for Emily; she laughed aloud. That laugh was the final straw. Hannah made a dive for her brother.

"You come home with me," she commanded. "You come right straight home with me this minute. As for you," she added, turning to Imogene, "I shan't waste any more words on a--on a thing like you. After my brother's money, be you? Thought you'd get him and it, too, did you? Well, you shan't! He'll come right along home with me and there he'll stay. He's worked in this place as long as he's goin' to, Miss Inmate. I'll take him out of YOUR clutches."

"Oh no, you won't! Him and me are goin' to the Fair tomorrow and on Monday he's comin' back to work here same as ever. You are, ain't you, Kenelm?"

Kenelm gulped and fidgeted. "I--I--I--" he stuttered.

"You see, Hannah," continued Imogene--"I suppose I might as well begin to call you 'Hannah,' seein' as we're goin' to be relations pretty soon--you see, he's engaged to me now and he'll do what I ask him to, of course."

"Engaged! He ain't engaged! I'll fix the 'engagement.' That'll be broke off this very minute."

And now Imogene played her best trump. She took from her waist a slip of paper and handed it to Captain Obed.

"Just read that out loud, won't you, please, Cap'n Bangs?" she asked.

The captain stared at the slip of paper. Then, in a choked voice, he read aloud the following:

I, Kenelm Issachar Parker, being in sound mind and knowing what I am doing, ask Imogene to be my wife and I agree to marry her any time she wants me to.


"There!" exclaimed Imogene. "I guess that settles it, don't it? I've got witnesses, anyhow, and right here, to our engagement. You all heard us both say we was engaged. But that paper settles it. Kenelm and I knew mighty well that you'd try to break off the engagement and say there wasn't any; but you can't break THAT."

"I can't? I like to know why I can't! What do you suppose I care for such a--a--"

"Well, if you don't, then the law does. If you make your brother break his engagement to me, Hannah Parker, I'll take that piece of paper right to a lawyer and make him sue Kenelm for--for breach of promises. You know what that means, I guess, if you've read the papers same as I have. I rather guess that paper would give me a good many dollars damage. If you don't believe it you try and see. And there's two lawyers livin' right in this house," she added triumphantly.

If she expected a sensation her expectations were realized. Hannah was again stricken dumb. Captain Bangs and Emily and John Kendrick looked at each other, then the captain doubled up with laughter. Mrs. Barnes and Kenelm, however, did not laugh. The latter seemed tremendously surprised.

"Why--why, Imogene," he protested, "how you talk! I never thought--"

"Kenelm, be still."

"But, Imogene," begged Thankful, "you mustn't say such things. I never--"

"Now, ma'am, please don't you butt in. I know what I'm doin'. Please don't talk to me now. There, Kenelm," turning to the trembling nominee for matrimonial offices, "that'll do for tonight. You go along with your sister and be on hand ready to take me to the Cattle Show tomorrow. Good night--er--dear."

Whether it was the "dear" that goaded Miss Parker into one more assault, or whether she was not yet ready to surrender, is uncertain. But, at all events, she fired a last broadside.

"He SHAN'T go with you tomorrow," she shrieked. "He shan't; I won't let him."

Imogene nodded. "All right," she said, firmly. "Then if he don't I'll come around tomorrow and tell him I'm ready to be married right away. And if he says no to THAT--then--well then, I'll go straight to the lawyer with that paper."

Ten minutes later, when the Parkers had gone and the sound of Hannah's tirade and Kenelm's protestations had died away on the path toward their home, Thankful, John and Captain Obed sat gazing at each other in the living room. Imogene and Emily were together in the kitchen. The "engaged" young lady had expressed a desire to speak with Miss Howes alone.

John and the captain were still chuckling, but Thankful refused to see the joke; she was almost in tears.

"It's dreadful!" she declared. "Perfectly awful! And Imogene! To act and speak so to our next-door neighbor! What WILL come of it? And how COULD she? How could she get engaged to THAT man, of all men? He's old enough to be her father and--and she CAN'T care for him."

Emily entered the room. She was apparently much agitated and her eyes were moist. She collapsed in a rocking-chair and put her handkerchief to her face.

"Land sakes!" cried Captain Obed. "Is it as bad as that? Does it make you cry?"

Emily removed the handkerchief. "I'm not crying," she gasped. "I--I--Oh dear! This is the funniest thing that girl has done yet."

"But what is it?" asked John. "What's the answer? We're dying to know."

Emily shook her head. "I can't tell you," she said. "I promised I wouldn't. It--it all came of a talk Imogene and I had a while ago. We were speaking of self-sacrifice and she--she adores you, Auntie, and--"

Thankful interrupted. "Mercy on us!" she cried. "Adores me! Self-sacrifice! She ain't doin' this crazy, loony thing for ME, I hope. She ain't marryin' that Parker man because--"

"She hasn't married anyone yet. Oh, it is all right, Auntie; she knows what she is doing, or she thinks she does. And, at any rate, I think there is no danger of Mr. Parker's giving up his situation here until you are ready to have him do it. There! I mustn't say another word. I have said too much already."

Captain Obed rose to his feet.

"Well," he said, "it's too thick off the bows for me to see more'n a foot; I give in to that. But I will say this: If that Imogene girl don't know what she's up to it's the fust time since I've been acquainted with her. And she sartin has spiked Hannah's guns. Either Hannah's got to say 'dum' when Imogene says 'dee' or she stands a chance to lose her brother or his money, one or t'other, and she'd rather lose the fust than the last, I'll bet you. Ho, ho! Yes, it does look as if Imogene had Hannah in a clove hitch. . . . Well, I'm goin' over to see what the next doin's in the circus is liable to be. I wouldn't miss any of THIS show for no money. Good night."

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Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 10 Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 10

Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 10
CHAPTER XThe next morning Kenelm, arrayed in his best, was early on hand to escort the lady of his choice to the Fair. The lady, herself, was ready and the pair drove away in Winnie S.'s depot-wagon bound for Wellmouth Centre and the train. Before she left the house Imogene made an earnest request. "If you don't mind, ma'am," she said, addressing Mrs. Barnes, "I wish you wouldn't say nothin' to nobody about Mr. Kenelm and me bein' engaged. And just ask the rest of 'em that heard the--the rough-house last night not to say anything, either, please." "Why, Imogene," said

Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 8 Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 8

Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 8
CHAPTER VIIIWhat Thankful thought of it was evidenced by the manner in which she received the news. She did not say much, then, but the expression of relief and delight upon her face was indication sufficient. She did ask a number of questions: Why had Emily come then, so long before her school closed? How was it that she could leave her teaching? Why hadn't she written? And many others. Miss Howes answered the questions one after the other. She had come in May because she found that she could come. "I meant to come the very first moment it was