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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 35. Money Makes The Mare Go
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 35. Money Makes The Mare Go Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1719

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 35. Money Makes The Mare Go


I rushed out of the Central Hotel, and looked over the water, but I could see nothing of the grocery boat: she had disappeared beyond the bluff, behind which I had stupidly taken it for granted Mrs. Raynor's yacht was lying.

"Oh, she's clean gone," said the bar-keeper, who had joined me, "an' she's not likely to come back ag'in' wind an' tide. They must have thought you was asleep in your berth."

This was undoubtedly the truth, for there was no reason to suppose that any one on the boat knew I had gone on shore.

"Where can I get a boat to follow them?" I cried.

"Can't say exactly," said the man. "We've got a big catboat, but she's on the stocks gettin' a new stern post put in. You can see her mast stickin' up over the bluff, there. I don't think there's any other sailboat in the place jes' now, and Captain Fluke's havin' his fresh painted. I told him it was a bad time o' the year to do it in; but he's Captain Fluke, and that's all there's to say about it. There's rowboats; but Sanpritchit's eight miles from here, and it's a putty long pull there and back, and I don't know anybody here who'd care to take it. If ye want to go to Sanpritchit, ye ought to go in a wagon. That's lots the easiest way."

"Where can I get a horse and vehicle?" I asked quickly, so much enraged with myself that I was glad to have some one to direct my movements.

"That's more 'n I know, jes' this minute," said the man; "but if ye'll step inside and sit down, I'll go and ask 'em at the store what they can do fur ye. If it ain't open yet, I'll know where ter find 'em. If anybody comes along for a mornin' drink, jes' tell 'em to wait a minute, and I'll be back."

In about fifteen or twenty minutes the bar-keeper returned, and announced that I could not hire the horse at the store, for one of his hind shoes was off, and they wanted to use him any way. He had asked two or three other people, also, for the village was waking up by this time, but none of them could let me have a horse.

"But I'll tell ye what ye can do," said the man, "if ye choose to wait here a little while. The boss of this house went over to Stipbitts last night to see his mother, and I expect him back putty soon, and I guess he'll let ye have his hoss. Ye see the people about here ain't used to hiring hosses, and we is. People as keeps hotels is expected to do it."

There was nothing for me to do but to wait for the return of the landlord of Central Hotel; and for very nearly an hour I walked up and down the main street of that wretched little hamlet, the name of which I neither heard nor asked, cursing my own stupidity and the incapacity of the waterside rustic.

When the "boss" arrived he was willing to let me have his mare and his buckboard, and a boy to drive me; but the animal must be fed first, and of course I would not start off without my breakfast. As I had to wait, and the morning meal was almost ready, I partook of it; but the mare gave a great deal more time to her breakfast than I gave to mine. I hurried the preparations as much as I could, and shortly after eight o'clock we started. My little expedition had the features of a useless piece of trouble, but I had carefully considered the affair, and concluded that I had a good chance of success. Almost any horse could take me eight miles in an hour and a half, even with poor roads, and, from what I knew of the industrial methods of this part of the country, I did not believe that the necessary supplies would be put on the yacht before half past nine: therefore, I did not allow myself to doubt that I should reach Sanpritchit in time to see Mrs. Raynor.

The mare was a very deliberate traveler, and the boy who sat beside me was an easily satisfied driver.

"We must go faster than this," said I, after we had reached what appeared to be a highroad, "or I shall not get to Sanpritchit in time to attend to my business there."

"Ye can't drive a hoss too fast when ye first set out," answered the boy. "Ye'll hurt a hoss if ye do that. After a little while she'll warm up, and then she'll go better. Oh, she can go if she's a mind ter. She's a rattler when she really gets goin'."

"I don't want her to rattle," said I; "but what is her ordinary rate of travel,--how many miles an hour, do you suppose?"

"Don't know as I ever counted," the boy said. "Some miles she goes faster, and some miles she goes slower. A good deal depends on whether it's uphill or downhill."

"Well," said I, taking out my watch, "we must keep her up to six miles an hour, at least, and then we shall do the eight miles by half past nine, with something to spare."

"Eight miles!" repeated the boy. "Eight miles to where?"

"Sanpritchit," replied I. "That's what they told me."

"Oh, that's by water," said the driver; "but this road's got to go around the end of the bay, and after that 'way round the top of the big marsh, and that makes it a good seventeen miles to Sanpritchit. Half past nine! Why, the boss told me, if I didn't get there before twelve, I must stop somewhere and water the mare and give her some oats. I've got a bag of them back there."

I sat dumb. Of course, with this conveyance, and seventeen miles between me and Sanpritchit, it was absurd to suppose that I could get there before the yacht sailed. It was ridiculous to go an inch farther on such a tedious and useless journey.

"Boy," I asked, "where is the nearest railroad station?"

"Stipbitts," said he.

"How far?"

"Five miles."

"Take me there," I said.

The boy looked at me in surprise. "I can't do that. I was told to take you to Sanpritchit: that's where I'm goin', and I'm goin' to bring back a box belongin' to Captain Fluke. That's what I 'in goin' to do."

"I cannot get there in time," I said. "I didn't know it was so far. Take me to Stipbitts, and I will give you a dollar; then you can go along and attend to Captain Fluke's box. I have already paid for the drive to Sanpritchit."

"Have you got as much as a dollar and a half about you?" asked the boy.

I replied that I had.

"All right," said he; "give me that, and I'll take you to Stipbitts."

The bargain was struck, I was taken to Stipbitts, and an hour afterward I was on my way to my home at Arden.

There was one very satisfactory feature about this course of action: it was plain and simple, and needed no planning. To attempt to follow the yacht would be useless. To wait anywhere for Walkirk would be equally so. He would be more apt to find me at my home than anywhere else. It was his business to find me, and there was no doubt that he would do it. I did not like to defer my intended interview with Mrs. Raynor, but it could not be helped. And as for Sylvia, if she had resolved to return to the House of Martha, the best place for me was the neighborhood of that institution.

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