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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 8. Captain Asher Is Not In A Good Humor
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The Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 8. Captain Asher Is Not In A Good Humor Post by :JuvioSuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1241

Click below to download : The Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 8. Captain Asher Is Not In A Good Humor (Format : PDF)

The Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 8. Captain Asher Is Not In A Good Humor

CHAPTER VIII. Captain Asher is not in a Good Humor

The next morning was very bright for Captain Asher; he was going to see Olive, and he did not know before how much he wished to see her.

When Dick Lancaster came from the house to take his seat in the buggy the sight of the handsome suit of dark-blue serge, white shirt and collar, and patent-leather shoes, with the trousers hanging properly above them, placed Dick very much higher in the captain's estimation than the young man with the colored shirt and rolled-up trousers could ever have reached. The captain, too, was well dressed for the occasion, and Mrs. Easterfield had no reason whatever to be ashamed of these two gentlemen when she introduced them to her other visitors.

She liked Professor Lancaster. Having lately had a good deal of Claude Locker, she was prepared to like a quiet and thoroughly self-possessed young man.

Olive was the latest of the little company to appear, and when she came down she caused a genuine, though gentle sensation. She was most exquisitely dressed, not too much for a luncheon, and not enough for a dinner. This navy girl had not studied for nothing the art of dressing in different parts of the world. Her uncle regarded her with open-eyed astonishment.

"Is this my brother's daughter?" he asked himself. "The little girl who poured my coffee in the morning and went out to take toll?"

Olive greeted her uncle with absolute propriety, and made the acquaintance of Mr. Lancaster with a formal courtesy to which no objection could be made. Apparently she forgot the existence of Mr. Locker, and for the greater part of the meal she conversed with Mr. Fox about certain foreign places with which they were both familiar.

The luncheon was not a success; there was a certain stiffness about it which even Mrs. Easterfield could not get rid of; and when the gentlemen went out to smoke on the piazza Olive disappeared, sending a message to Mrs. Easterfield that she had a bad headache and would like to be excused. Her excuse was a perfectly honest one, for she was apt to have a headache when she was angry; and she was angry now.

The reason for her indignation was the fact that her uncle's visitor was an extremely presentable young man. Had it been otherwise, Olive would have given the captain a good scolding, and would then have taken her revenge by making fun of him and his shipmate's son. But now she felt insulted that her uncle should conceal from her the fact that he had an entirely proper young gentleman for a visitor. Could he think she would want to stay at his house to be with that young man? Was she a girl from whom the existence of such a person was to be kept secret? She was very angry, indeed, and her headache was genuine.

Captain Asher was also angry. He had intended to take Olive aside and tell her all about Dick Lancaster, and how he had refrained from saying anything about him until he found out what sort of a young man he was. If, then, she saw fit to scold him, he was perfectly willing to submit, and to shake hands all around. But now he would have no chance to speak to her; she had not treated him properly, even if she had a headache. He admitted to himself that she was young and probably sensitive, but it was also true that he was sensitive, although old. Therefore, he was angry.

Mrs. Easterfield was disturbed; she saw there was something wrong between Olive and her uncle, and she did not like it. She had invited Lancaster with an object, and she did not wish that other people's grievances should interfere with said object. Olive was grumpy up-stairs and Claude Locker was in the doleful dumps under a tree, and if these two should grump and dump together, it might be very bad; consequently, Mrs. Easterfield was more anxious than ever that there should be at least two young men at Broadstone.

For this reason she asked Lancaster if he were fond of rowing; and when he said he was, she invited him to join them in a boat party the next day to help her and Olive pull the big family boat. Mr. Fox did not like rowing, and Mr. Locker did not know how.

On the drive home Captain Asher and Lancaster did not talk much. Even the young man's invitation to the rowing party did not excite much interest in the captain. These two men were both thinking of the same girl; one pleasantly, and the other very unpleasantly. Dick was charmed with her, although he had had very little opportunity of becoming acquainted with her, but he hoped for better luck the next day.

The captain did not know what to make of her. He felt sure that she was at fault, and that he was at fault, and he could not see how things could be made straight between them. Only one thing seemed plain to him, and this was that, with things as they were at present, she was not likely to come back to his house; and this would not be necessary; he knew very well that there were other places she could visit; and that early in the fall her father would be home.

Dick Lancaster walked to Broadstone the next morning because Captain Asher was obliged to go to Glenford on business, but the young man did not in the least mind a six-mile walk on a fine morning.

All the way to Glenford the captain thought of Olive; sometimes he wished she had never come to him. Even now, with Lancaster to talk to, he missed her grievously, and if she should not come back, the case would be a great deal worse than if she had never come at all. But one thing was certain: If she returned as the young lady with whom he had lunched at Broadstone, he did not want her. He felt that he had been in the wrong, that she had been in the wrong; and it seemed as if things in this world were gradually going wrong. He was not in a good humor.

When he stopped his mare in front of a store, Maria Port stepped up to him and said: "How do you do, captain? What have you done with your young man?"

The captain got down from his buggy, hitched his mare to a post, and then shook hands with Miss Port.

"Dick Lancaster has gone boating to-day with the Broadstone people," he said.

"What!" exclaimed Miss Port. "Gone there again already? Why it was only yesterday you took dinner with them."

"Lunch," corrected the captain.

"Well, you may call it what you please," said Maria, "but I call it dinner. And them two's together without you, that you tried so hard to keep apart!"

"I did not try anything of the kind," said the captain a little sharply; "it just happened so."

"Happened so!" exclaimed Miss Port. "Well, I must say, Captain Asher, that you've a regular genius for makin' things happen. The minute she goes, he conies. I wish I could make things happen that way."

The captain took no notice of this remark, and moved toward the door of the store.

"Look here, captain," continued Miss Port, "can't you come and take dinner with us? You haven't seen Pop for ever so long. It won't be lunch, though, but an honest dinner."

The captain accepted the invitation; for old Mr. Port was one of his ancient friends; and then he entered the store. Miss Port was on the point of following him; she had something to say about Olive; but she stopped.

"I'll keep that till dinner-time," she said to herself.

Old Mr. Port had always been a very pleasant man to visit, and he had not changed now, although he was nearly eighty years old. He had been a successful merchant in the days when Captain Asher commanded a ship, and there was good reason to believe that a large measure of his success was due to his constant desire to make himself agreeable to the people with whom he came in business contact. He was just as agreeable to his friends, of whom Captain Asher was one of the oldest.

The people of Glenford often puzzled themselves as to what sort of a woman Maria's mother could have been. None of them had ever seen her, for she had died years before old Mr. Port had come into that healthful region to reside; but all agreed that her parents must have been a strangely assorted pair, unless, indeed, as some of the wiser suggested, she got her disposition from a grandparent.

"That navy niece of yours must be a wild girl," said Miss Port to the captain as she carved the beef.

"Wild!" exclaimed the captain. "I never saw anything wild about her."

"Perhaps not," said his hostess, "but there's others that have. It was only three days ago that she took that young man, that goggle-eyed one, out on the river in a boat, and did her best to upset him. Whether she stood up and made the boat rock while he clung to the side, or whether she bumped the boat against rocks and sand-bars, laughin' the louder the more he was frightened, I wasn't told. But she did skeer him awful. I know that."

"You seem to know a good deal about what is going on at Broadstone," remarked the captain, somewhat sarcastically.

"Indeed I do," said she; "a good deal more than they think. They've got such fine stomachs that they can't eat the beef they get at the gap, and Mr. Morris goes there three times a week, all the way from Glenford, to take them Chicago beef. The rest of the time they mostly eat chickens, I'm told."

"And so your butcher takes meat and brings back news," said the captain. "The next time he passes the toll-gate I will tell him to leave the news with me, and I will see that it is properly distributed." And with this, he began to talk with Mr. Port.

"Oh, you needn't be so snappish about her," insisted Maria. "If you are in that temper often, I don't wonder the young woman wanted to go away."

The captain made no answer, but his glance at the speaker was not altogether a pleasant one. Old Mr. Port did not hear very well; but his eyesight was good, and he perceived from the captain's expression that his daughter had been saying something sharp. This he never allowed at his table; and, turning to her, he said gently, but firmly:

"Maria, don't you think you'd better go up-stairs and go to bed?"

"He's all the time thinkin' I'm a child," said Miss Maria, with a grin; "but how awfully he's mistook." Then she added: "Has that teacher got money enough to support a wife when he marries her? I don't suppose his salary amounts to much. I'm told it's a little bit of a college he teaches at."

"I do not know anything about his salary," said the captain, and again attempted to continue the conversation with the father.

But the daughter was not to be put down. "When is Olive Asher coming back to your house?" she asked.

The captain turned upon her with a frown. "I did not say she was coming back at all," he snapped.

Now old Mr. Port thought it time for him to interfere. To him Maria had always been a young person to be mildly counseled, but to be firmly punished if she did not obey said counsels. It was evident that she was now annoying his old friend; Maria had a great habit of annoying people, but she should not annoy Captain Asher.

"Maria," said Mr. Port, "leave the table instantly, and go to bed."

Miss Port smiled. She had finished her dinner, and she folded her napkin and dusted some crumbs from her lap. She always humored her father when he was really in earnest; he was very old and could not be expected to live much longer, and it was his daughter's earnest desire that she should be in good favor with him when he died. With a straight-cut smile at the captain, she rose and left the two old friends to their talk, and went out on the front piazza. There she saw Mr. Morris, the butcher, on his way home with an empty wagon. She stepped out to the edge of the sidewalk and stopped him.

"Been to Broadstone?" she asked.

"Yes," said the butcher with a sigh, and stopping his horse. Miss Port always wanted to know so much about Broadstone, and he was on his way to his dinner.

"Well," said Miss Port, "what monkey tricks are going on there now? Has anybody been drowned yet? Did you see that young man that's stayin' at the toll-gate?"

"Yes," said the butcher, "I saw him as I was crossing the bridge. He was in the big boat helping to row. Pretty near the whole family was in the boat, I take it."

"That's like them, just like them!" she exclaimed. "The next thing we'll hear will be that they've all gone to the bottom together. I don't suppose one of them can swim. Was the captain's niece standin' up, or sittin' down?"

"They were all sitting down," said the butcher, "and behaving like other people do in a boat." And he prepared to go on.

"Stop one minute," said Miss Port. "Of course you are goin' out there day after to-morrow?"

"No," said Mr. Morris. "I'm going to-morrow. They've ordered some extra things." Then he said, with a sort of conciliatory grin, "I'll get some more news, and have more time to tell it."

"Now, don't be in such a hurry," said Miss Port, advancing to the side of the wagon. "I want very much to go to Broadstone. I've got some business with that Mrs. Blynn that I ought to have attended to long ago. Now, why can't I ride out with you to-morrow? That's a pretty broad seat you've got."

The butcher looked at her in dismay. "Oh, I couldn't do that, Miss Port," he said. "I always have a heavy load, and I can't take passengers, too."

"Now, what's the sense of your talkin' like that?" said Miss Port. "You've got a great big horse, and plenty of room, and would you have me go hire a carriage and a driver to go out there when you can take me just as well as not?"

The butcher thought he would be very willing. He did not care for her society, and, moreover, he knew that both at Broadstone and in the town he would be ridiculed when it should be known that he had been taking Maria Port to drive.

"Oh, I couldn't do it," he replied. "Of course, I'm willing to oblige--"

"Oh, don't worry yourself any more, Mr. Morris," interrupted Miss Port. "I'm not askin' you to take me now, and I won't keep you from your dinner."

The next morning as Mr. Morris, the butcher, was driving past the Port house at rather a rapid rate for a man with a heavy wagon, Miss Maria appeared at her door with her bonnet on. She ran out into the middle of the street, and so stationed herself that Mr. Morris was obliged to stop. Then, without speaking, she clambered up to the seat beside him.

"Now, you see," said she, settling herself on the leather cushion, "I've kept to my part of the bargain, and I don't believe your horse will think this wagon is a bit heavier than it was before I got in. What's the name of the new people that's comin' to Broadstone?"

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