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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCy Whittaker's Place - Chapter 4. Bailey Bangs's Experiment
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Cy Whittaker's Place - Chapter 4. Bailey Bangs's Experiment Post by :mkproductions Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :928

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Cy Whittaker's Place - Chapter 4. Bailey Bangs's Experiment

CHAPTER IV. BAILEY BANGS'S EXPERIMENT

Lemuel Myrick's painting jobs have the quality so prized by our village small boys in the species of candy called "jaw breakers," namely, that of "lasting long." But even Lem must finish sometime or other and, late in July, the Cy Whittaker place was ready for occupancy. The pictures were in their places on the walls, the old-fashioned furniture filled the rooms, there was even a pile of old magazines, back numbers of Godey's Lady's Book, on the shelf in the sitting room closet.

Then, when Captain Cy had notified Mrs. Bangs that the perfect boarding house would shelter him no longer than the coming week, a new problem arose.

"Whit," said Asaph earnestly, "you've sartin made the place rise up out of its tomb; you have so. It's a miracle, pretty nigh, and I cal'late it must have cost a heap, but you've done it--all but the old folks themselves. You can't raise them up, Cy; money won't do that. And you can't live in this great house all alone. Who's goin' to cook for you, and sweep and dust, and swab decks, and one thing a'nother? You'll have to have a housekeeper, as I told you a spell ago. Have you done any thinkin' about that?"

And the captain, taking his pipe from his lips, stared blankly at his friend, and answered:

"By the big dipper, Ase, I ain't! I remember we did mention it, but I've been so busy gettin' this craft off the ways that I forgot all about it."

The discussion which followed Mr. Tidditt's reminder was long and serious. Asaph and Bailey Bangs racked their brains and offered numerous suggestions, but the majority of these were not favorably received.

"There's Matildy Tripp," said Bailey. "She'd like the job, I'm sartin. She's a widow, too, and she's had experience keepin' house along of Tobias, him that was her husband. But, if you do hire her, don't let Ketury know I hinted at it, 'cause we're goin' to lose one boarder when you quit, and that's too many, 'cordin' to the old lady's way of thinkin'."

"You can keep Matildy, for all me," replied the captain decidedly. "Come-Outer religion's all right, for those that have that kind of appetite, but havin' it passed to me three times a day, same as I've had it at your house, is enough; I don't hanker to have it warmed over between meals. If I shipped Matildy aboard here she and the Reverend Daniels would stand over me, watch and watch, till I was converted or crazy, one or the other."

"Well, there's Angie. She--"

"Angie!" sniffed Mr. Tidditt. "Stop your jokin', Bailey. This is a serious matter."

"I wan't jokin'. What--"

"There! there! boys," interrupted the captain; "don't fight. Bailey didn't mean to joke, Ase; he's full of what the papers call 'unconscious humor.' I'll give in that Angie is about as serious a matter as I can think of without settin' down to rest. Humph! so fur we haven't gained any knots to speak of. Any more candidates on your mind?"

More possibilities were mentioned, but none of them seemed to fill the bill. The conference broke up without arriving at a decision. Mr. Bangs and the town clerk walked down the hill together.

"Do you know, Bailey," said Asaph, "the way I look at it, this pickin' out a housekeeper for Whit ain't any common job. It's somethin' to think over. Cy's a restless critter; been cruisin' hither and yon all his life. I'm sort of scared that he'll get tired of Bayport and quit if things here don't go to suit him. Now if a real good nice woman--a nice LOOKIN' woman, say--was to keep house for him it--it--"

"Well?"

"Well, I mean--that is, don't you s'pose if some such woman as that was to be found for the job he might in time come to like her and--and--er--"

"Ase Tidditt, what are you drivin' at?"

"Why, I mean he might come to marry her; there! Then he'd be contented to settle down to home and stay put. What do you think of the idea?"

"Think of it? I think it's the dumdest foolishness ever I heard. I declare if the very mention of a woman to some of you old baches don't make your heads soften up like a jellyfish in the sun! Ain't Cy Whittaker got money? Ain't he got a nice home? Ain't he happy?"

"Yes, he is now, I s'pose, but--"

"WELL, then! And you want him to get married! What do you know about marryin'? Never tried it, have you?"

"Course I ain't! You know I ain't."

"All right. Then I'd keep quiet about such things, if I was you."

"You needn't fly up like a settin' hen. Everybody's wife ain't--"

He stopped in the middle of the sentence.

"What's that?" demanded his companion, sharply.

"Nothin'; nothin'. _I don't care; I was only tryin' to fix things comf'table for Whit. Has Heman said anything about the harbor appropriation sence he's been home? I haven't heard of it if he has."

Mr. Bangs's answer was a grunt, signifying a negative. Congressman Atkins had been, since his return to Bayport, exceedingly noncommittal concerning the appropriation. To Tad Simpson and a very few chosen lieutenants and intimates he had said that he hoped to get it; that was all. This was a disquieting change of attitude, for, at the beginning of the term just passed, he had affirmed that he was GOING to get it. However, as Mr. Simpson reassuringly said: "The job's in as good hands as can be, so what's the use of OUR worryin'?"

Bailey Bangs certainly was not troubled on that score; but the town clerk's proposal that Captain Cy be provided with a suitable wife did worry him. Bailey was so very much married himself and had such decided, though unspoken, views concerning matrimony that such a proposal seemed to him lunacy, pure and simple. He had liked and admired his friend "Whit" in the old days, when the latter led them into all sorts of boyish scrapes; now he regarded him with a liking that was close to worship. The captain was so jolly and outspoken; so brave and independent--witness his crossing of the great Atkins in the matter of the downstairs teacher. That was a reckless piece of folly which would, doubtless, be rewarded after its kind, but Bailey, though he professed to condemn it, secretly wished he had the pluck to dare such things. As it was, he didn't dare contradict Keturah.

With the exception of one voyage as cabin boy to New Orleans, a voyage which convinced him that he was not meant for a seaman, Mr. Bangs had never been farther from his native village than Boston. Captain Cy had been almost everywhere and seen almost everything. He could spin yarns that beat the serial stories in the patent inside of the Bayport Breeze all hollow. Bailey had figured that, when the "fixin' over" was ended, the Cy Whittaker place would be for him a delightful haven of refuge, where he could put his boots on the furniture, smoke until dizzy without being pounced upon, be entertained and thrilled with tales of adventure afloat and ashore, and even express his own opinion, when he had any, with the voice and lung power of a free-born American citizen.

And now Asaph Tidditt, who should know better, even though he was a bachelor, wanted to bring a wife into this paradise; not a paid domestic who could be silenced, or discharged, if she became a nuisance, but a WIFE! Bailey guessed not; not if he could prevent it.

So he lay awake nights thinking of possible housekeepers for Captain Cy, and carefully rejecting all those possessing dangerous attractions of any kind. Each morning, after breakfast, he ran over the list with the captain, taking care that Asaph was not present. Captain Cy, who was very busy with the finishing touches at the new old house, wearied on the third morning.

"There, there, Bailey!" he said. "Don't bother me now. I've got other things on my mind. How do I know who all these women folks are you're stringing off to me? Let me alone, do."

"But you must have a housekeeper, Cy. You'll move in Monday and you won't have nobody to--"

"Oh, dry up! I want to think who I must see this morning. There's Lem and old lady Penniman, and--"

"But the housekeeper, Cy! Don't you see--"

"Hire one yourself, then. You know 'em; I don't."

"Hey? Hire one myself? Do you mean you'll leave it in my hands?"

"Yes, yes! I guess so. Run along, that's a good feller."

He departed hurriedly. Mr. Bangs scratched his head. A weighty responsibility had been laid upon him.

Monday morning after breakfast Captain Cy's trunk was put aboard the depot wagon, and Dan'l Webster drew it to its owner's home. The farewells at the perfect boarding house were affecting. Mrs. Tripp said that she had spoken to the Reverend Mr. Daniels, and he would be sure to call the very first thing. Keturah affirmed that the captain's stay had been a real pleasure.

"You never find fault, Cap'n Whittaker," she said. "You're such a manly man, if you'll excuse my sayin' so. I only wish there was more like you," with a significant glance at her husband. As for Miss Phinney, she might have been saying good-by yet if the captain had not excused himself.

Asaph accompanied his friend to the house on the hill. The trunk was unloaded from the wagon and carried into the bedroom on the first floor, the room which had been Captain Cy's so long ago. Gabe shrieked at Dan'l Webster, and the depot wagon crawled away toward the upper road.

"Got to meet the up train," grumbled the driver. "Not that anybody ever comes on it, but I cal'late I'm s'posed to be there. Be more talk than a little if I wan't. Git dap, Dan'l! you're slower'n the moral law."

"So you're goin' to do your own cookin' for a spell, Cy?" observed Asaph, a half hour later, "Well, I guess that's a good idea, till you can find the right housekeeper. I ain't been able to think of one that would suit you yet."

"Nor I, either. Neither's Bailey, I judge, though for a while he was as full of suggestions as a pine grove is of woodticks. He started to say somethin' about it to me last night, but Ketury hove in sight and yanked him off to prayer meetin'."

"Yes, I know. She cal'lates to get him into heaven somehow."

"I guess 'twouldn't BE heaven for her unless he was round to pick at. There he comes now. How'd he get out of wipin' dishes?"

Mr. Bangs strolled into the yard.

"Hello!" he hailed. "I was on my way to Simmons's on an errand and I thought I'd stop in a minute. Got somethin' to tell you, Whit."

"All right. Overboard with it! It won't keep long this hot weather."

Bailey smiled knowingly. "Didn't I hear the up train whistle as I was comin' along?" he asked. "Seems to me I did. Yes; well, if I ain't mistaken somebody's comin' on that train. Somebody for you, Cy Whittaker."

"Somebody for ME?"

"Um--hum! I can gen'rally be depended on, I cal'late, and when you says to me: 'Bailey, you get me a housekeeper,' I didn't lose much time. I got her."

Mr. Tidditt gasped.

"GOT her?" he repeated. "Got who? Got what? Bailey Bangs, what in the world have--"

"Belay, Ase!" ordered Captain Cy. "Bailey, what are you givin' us?"

"Givin' you a housekeeper, and a good one, too, I shouldn't wonder. She may not be one of them ten-thousand-dollar prize museum beauties," with a scornful wink at Asaph, "but if what I hear's true she can keep house. Anyhow she's kept one for forty odd year. Her name's Deborah Beasley, she's a widow over to East Trumet, and if I don't miss my guess, she's in the depot wagon now headed in this direction."

Captain Cy whistled. Mr. Tidditt was too much surprised to do even that.

"I was speakin' to the feller that drives the candy cart," continued Bailey, "and I asked him if he'd run acrost anybody, durin' his trips 'round the country, who'd be likely to hire out for a housekeeper. He thought a spell and then named over some. Among 'em was this Beasley one. I asked some more questions and, the answers bein' satisfactory to ME, though they might not be to some folks--" another derisive wink at Asaph--"I set down and wrote her, tellin' what you'd pay, Cy, what she'd have to do, and when she'd have to come. Saturday night I got a letter, sayin' terms was all right, and she'd be on hand by this mornin's train. Course she's only on trial for a month, but you had to have SOMEBODY, and the candy-cart feller said--"

The town clerk slapped his knee.

"Debby Beasley!" he cried. "I know who she is! I've got a cousin in Trumet. Debby Beasley! Aunt Debby, they call her. Why! she's old enough to be Methusalem's grandmarm, and--"

"If I recollect right," interrupted Bailey, with dignity, "Cy never said he wanted a YOUNG woman--a frivolous, giddy critter, always riggin' up and chasin' the fellers. He wanted a sot, sober housekeeper."

"Godfrey! Aunt Debby ain't frivolous! She couldn't chase a lame clam--and catch it. And DEEF! Godfrey--scissors! she's deefer 'n one of them cast-iron Newfoundlands in Heman's yard! Do you mean to say, Bailey Bangs, that you went ahead, on your own hook, and hired that old relic to--"

"I did. And I had my authority, didn't I, Whit? You told me you'd leave it in my hands, now didn't you?"

The captain smiled somewhat ruefully, and scratched his head. "Why, to be honest, Bailey, I believe I did," he admitted. "Still, I hardly expected--Humph! is she deef, as Ase says?"

"I understand she's a little mite hard of hearin'," replied Mr. Bangs, with dignity; "but that ain't any drawback, the way I look at it. Fact is, I'd call it an advantage, but you folks seem to be hard to please. I ruther imagined you'd thank me for gettin' her, but I s'pose that was too much to expect. All right, pitch her out! Don't mind MY feelin's! Poor homeless critter comin' to--"

"Homeless!" repeated Asaph. "What's that got to do with it? Cy ain't runnin' the Old Woman's Home."

"Well, well!" observed the captain resignedly. "There's no use in rowin' about what can't be helped. Bailey says he shipped her for a month's trial, and here comes the depot wagon now. That's her on the aft thwart, I judge. She AIN'T what you'd call a spring pullet, is she!"

She certainly was not. The occupant of the depot wagon's rear seat was a thin, not to say scraggy, female, wearing a black, beflowered bonnet and a black gown. A black knit shawl was draped about her shoulders and she wore spectacles.

"Whoa!" commanded Mr. Lumley, piloting the depot wagon to the side door of the Whittaker house. Dan'l Webster came to anchor immediately. Gabe turned and addressed his passenger.

"Here we be!" he shouted.

"Hey?" observed the lady in black.

"Here--we--be!" repeated Gabe, raising his voice.

"See? See what?"

"Oh, heavens to Betsey! I'm gettin' the croup from howlin'. I--say--HERE--WE--BE! GET OUT!"

He accompanied the final bellow with an expressive pantomime indicating that the passenger was expected to alight. She seemed to understand, for she opened the door of the carriage and slowly descended. Mr. Bangs advanced to meet her.

"How d'ye do, Mrs. Beasley!" he said. "Glad to see you all safe and sound."

Mrs. Beasley shook his hand; hers were covered, as far as the knuckles, by black mitts.

"How d'ye do, Cap'n Whittaker?" she said, in a shrill voice. "You pretty smart?"

Bailey hastened to explain.

"I ain't Cap'n Whittaker," he roared. "I'm Bailey Bangs, the one that wrote to you."

"Hey?"

Mr. Lumley and Asaph chuckled. Bailey colored and tried again.

"I ain't the cap'n," he whooped. "Here he is--here!"

He led her over to her prospective employer and tapped the latter on the chest.

"How d'ye do, sir?" said the housekeeper. "I don't know's I just caught your name."

In five minutes or so the situation was made reasonably clear. Mrs. Beasley then demanded her trunk and carpet bag. The grinning Lumley bore them into the house. Then he drove away, still grinning. Bailey looked fearfully at Captain Cy.

"She IS kind of hard of hearin', ain't she?" he said reluctantly. "You remember I said she was."

The captain nodded.

"Yes," he answered, "you're a truth-tellin' chap, Bailey, I'll say that for you. You don't exaggerate your statements."

"Hard of hearin'!" snapped Mr. Tidditt. "If the last trump ain't a steam whistle she'll miss Judgment Day. I'll stop into Simmons's on my way along and buy you a bottle of throat balsam, Cy; you're goin' to need it."

The captain needed more than throat balsam during the fortnight which followed. The widow Beasley's deafness was not her only failing. In fact she was altogether a failure, so far as her housekeeping was concerned. She could cook, after a fashion, but the fashion was so limited that even the bill of fare at the perfect boarding house looked tempting in retrospect.

"Baked beans again, Cy!" exclaimed Asaph, dropping in one evening after supper. "'Tain't Saturday night so soon, is it?"

"No," was the dismal rejoinder. "It's Tuesday, if my almanac ain't out of joint. But we had beans Saturday and they ain't all gone yet, so I presume we'll have 'em till the last one's swallowed. Aunt Debby's got what the piece in the Reader used to call a 'frugal mind.' She don't intend to waste anything. Last Thursday I spunked up courage enough to yell for salt fish and potatoes--fixed up with pork scraps, you know, same's we used to have when I was a boy. We had 'em all right, and if beans of a Saturday hadn't been part of her religion we'd be warmin' 'em up yet. I took in a cat for company 'tother day, but the critter's run away. To see it look at the beans in its saucer and then at me was pitiful; I felt like handin' myself over to the Cruelty to Animals' folks."

"Is she neat?" inquired Mr. Tidditt.

"I don't know. I guess so--on the installment plan. It takes her a week to scrub up the kitchen, and then one end of it is so dirty she has to begin again. Consequently the dust is so thick in the rest of the house that I can see my tracks. If 'twan't so late in the season I'd plant garden stuff in the parlor--nice soil and lots of shade, with the curtains down."

From the rooms in the rear came the words of a gospel hymn sung in a tremulous soprano and at concert pitch.

"Music with my meals, just like a high-toned restaurant," commented Captain Cy.

"But what makes her sing so everlastin' LOUD?"

"Can't hear herself if she don't. I could stand her deefness, because that's an affliction and we may all come to it; but--"

The housekeeper, still singing, entered the room and planted herself in a chair.

"Good evenin', Mr. Tidditt," she said, smiling genially. "Nice weather we've been havin'."

Asaph nodded.

"Sociable critter, ain't she!" observed the captain. "Always willin' to help entertain. Comes and sets up with me till bedtime. Tells about her family troubles. Preaches about her niece out West, and how set the niece and the rest of the Western relations are to have her make 'em a visit. I told her she better go--I thought 'twould do her good. I know 'twould help ME consider'ble to see her start.

"She's got so now she finds fault with my neckties," he added, "says I must be careful and not get my feet wet. Picks out what I ought to wear so's I won't get cold. She'll adopt me pretty soon. Oh, it's all right! She can't hear what you say. Are your dishes done?" he shrieked, turning to the old lady.

"One? One what?" inquired Mrs. Beasley.

"They won't BE done till you go, Ase," continued the master of the house. "She'll stay with us till the last gun fires. T'other day Angie Phinney called and I turned Debby loose on her. I didn't believe anything could wear out Angie's talkin' machinery, but she did it. Angeline stayed twenty minutes and then quit, hoarse as a crow."

Here the widow joined in the conversation, evidently under the impression that nothing had been said since she last spoke. Continuing her favorable comments on the weather she observed that she was glad there was so little fog, because fog was hard for folks with "neuralgy pains." Her brother's wife's cousin had "neuralgy" for years, and she described his sufferings with enthusiasm and infinite detail. Mr. Tidditt answered her questions verbally at first; later by nods and shakes of the head. Captain Cy fidgeted in his chair.

"Come on outdoor, Ase," he said at last. "No use to wait till she runs down, 'cause she's a self-winder, guaranteed to keep goin' for a year. Good-night!" he shouted, addressing Mrs. Beasley, and heading for the door.

"Where you goin'?" asked the old lady.

"No. Yes. Who said so? Hooray! Three cheers for Gen'ral Scott! Come on, Ase!" And the captain, seizing his friend by the arm, dragged him into the open air, and slammed the door.

"Are you crazy?" demanded the astonished town clerk. "What makes you talk like that?"

"Might as well. She wouldn't understand it any better if 'twas Scripture, and it saves brain work. The only satisfaction I get is bein' able to give my opinion of her and the grub without hurtin' her feelin's. If I called her a wooden-headed jumpin' jack she'd only smile and say No, she didn't think 'twas goin' to rain, or somethin' just as brilliant."

"Well, why don't you give her her walkin' papers?"

"I shall, when her month's up."

"I wouldn't wait no month. I'd heave her overboard to-night. You hear ME!"

Captain Cy shook his head.

"I can't, very well," he replied. "I hate to make her feel TOO bad. When the month's over I'll have some excuse ready, maybe. The joke of it is that she don't really need to work out. She's got some money of her own, owns cranberry swamps and I don't know what all. Says she took up Bailey's offer 'cause she cal'lated I'd be company for her. I had to laugh, even in the face of those beans, when she said that."

"Humph! if I don't tell Bailey what I think of him, then--"

"No, no! Don't you say a word to Bailey. It's principally on his account that I'm tryin' to stick it out for the month. Bailey did his best; he thought he was helpin'. And he feels dreadfully because she's so deef. Only yesterday he asked me if I believed there was anything made that would fix her up and make it more comfortable for me. I could have prescribed a shotgun, but I didn't. You see, he thinks her deefness is the only trouble; I haven't told him the rest, and don't you do it, either. Bailey's a good-hearted chap."

"Humph! his heart may be good, but his head's goin' to seed. I'll keep quiet if 'twill please you, though."

"Yes. And, see here, Ase! I don't care to be the laughin' stock of Bayport. If any of the folks ask you how I like my new housekeeper, you tell 'em there's nothin' like her anywhere. That's no lie."

So Mrs. Beasley stayed on at the Whittaker place and, thanks to Mr. Tidditt, the general opinion of inquisitive Bayport was that the new housekeeper was a grand success. Only Captain Cy and Asaph knew the whole truth, and Mr. Bangs a part. That part, Deborah's deafness, troubled him not a little and he thought much concerning it. As a result of this thinking he wrote a letter to a relative in Boston. The answer to this letter pleased him and he wrote again.

One afternoon, during the third week of Mrs. Beasley's stay, Asaph called and found Captain Cy in the sitting room, reading the Breeze. The captain urged his friend to remain and have supper. "We've run out of beans, Ase," he explained, "and are just startin' in on a course of boiled cod. Do stay and eat a lot; then there won't be so much to warm over."

Mr. Tidditt accepted the invitation, also a section of the Breeze. While they were reading they heard the back door slam.

"It's the graven image," explained the captain. "She's been on a cruise down town somewheres. Be a lot of sore throats in that direction to-morrow mornin'."

The town clerk looked up.

"There now!" he exclaimed. "I believe 'twas her I saw walkin' with Bailey a spell ago. I thought so, but I didn't have my specs and I wan't sure."

"With Bailey, hey? Humph! this is serious. Hope Ketury didn't see 'em. We mustn't have any scandal."

The housekeeper entered the dining room. She was singing "Beulah Land," but her tone was more subdued than usual. They heard her setting the table.

"How's she gettin' along?" asked Asaph.

"Progressin' backwards, same as ever. She's no better, thank you, and the doctor's given up hopes."

"When you goin' to tell her she can clear out?"

"What?" Captain Cy had returned to his paper and did not hear the question.

"I say when is she goin' to be bounced? Deefness ain't catchin', is it?"

"I wouldn't wonder if it might be. If 'tis, mine ought to be developin' fast. What makes her so still all at once?"

"Gone to the kitchen, I guess. Wonder she hasn't sailed in and set down with us. Old chromo! You must be glad her month's most up?"

Asaph proceeded to give his opinion of the housekeeper, raising his voice almost to a howl, as his indignation grew. If Mrs. Beasley's ears had been ordinary ones she might have heard the unflattering description in the kitchen; as it was Mr. Tidditt felt no fear.

"Comin' here so's you could be company for her! The idea! Good to herself, ain't she! Godfrey scissors! And Bailey was fool enough to--"

"There, there! Don't let it worry you, Ase. I've about decided what to say when I let her go. I'll tell her she is gettin' too old to be slavin' herself to death. You see, I don't want to make the old critter cry, nor I don't want her to get mad. Judgin' by the way she used to coax the cat outdoors with the broom handle she's got somethin' of a temper when she gets started. I'll give her an extry month's wages, and--"

"You will, hey? You WILL?"

The interruption came from behind the partially closed dining-room door. Mr. Tidditt sank back in his chair. Captain Cy sprang from his and threw the door wide open. Behind it crouched Mrs. Deborah Beasley. Her eyes snapped behind her spectacles, her lean form was trembling all over, and in her right hand she held a mammoth trumpet, the smaller end of which was connected with her ear.

"You will, hey?" she screamed, brandishing her left fist, but still keeping the ear trumpet in place with her right. "You WILL? Well, I don't want none of your miser'ble money! Land knows how you made it, anyhow, and I wouldn't soil my hands with it. After all I've put up with, and the way I've done my work, and the things I've had to eat, and--and--"

She paused for breath. Captain Cy scratched his chin. Asaph, gazing open-mouthed at the trumpet, stirred in his chair. Mrs. Beasley swooped down upon him like a gull on a minnow.

"And you!" she shrieked. "You! a miserable little, good-for-nothin', lazy, ridiculous, dried-up-- . . . Oo--oo--OH! You call yourself a town clerk! YOU do! I--I wouldn't have you clerk for a hen house! I'm an old chromo, be I? Yes! that's nice talk, ain't it, to a woman old enough to be--that is--er--er--'most as old as you be! You sneakin', story-tellin', little, fat THING, you! You--oh, I can't lay my tongue to words to tell you WHAT you are."

"You're doin' pretty well, seems to me," observed Captain Cy dryly. "I wouldn't be discouraged if I was you."

The only effect of this remark was to turn the wordy torrent in his direction. The captain bore it for a while; then he rose to his feet and commanded silence.

"That's enough! Stop it!" he ordered, and, strange to say, Mrs. Beasley did stop. "I'm sorry, Debby," he went on, "but you had no business to be listenin' even if--" and he smiled grimly, "you have got a new fog horn to hear with. You can go and pack your things as soon as you want to. I made up my mind the first day you come that you and me wouldn't cruise together long, and this only shortens the trip by a week or so. I'll pay you for this month and for the next, and I guess, when you come to think it over, you'll be willin' to risk soilin' your hands with the money. It's your own fault if anybody knows that you didn't leave of your own accord. _I shan't tell, and I'll see that Tidditt doesn't. Now trot! Ase and I'll get supper ourselves."

It was evident that the ex-housekeeper had much more which she would have liked to say. But there was that in her late employer's manner which caused her to forbear. She slammed out of the room, and they heard her banging things about on the floor above.

"But where--WHERE," repeated Mr. Tidditt, over and over, "did she get that trumpet?"

The puzzle was solved soon after, when Bailey Bangs entered the house in a high state of excitement.

"Well," he demanded, expectantly. "Did they help her? Has anything happened?"

"HAPPENED!" began Asaph, but Captain Cy silenced him by a wink.

"Yes," answered the captain; "something's happened. Why?"

"Hurrah! I thought 'twould. She can hear better, can't she?"

"Yes, I guess it's safe to say she can."

"Good! You can thank me for it. When I see how dreadful deef she was I wrote my cousin Eddie T, who's an optician up to Boston--you know him, Ase--and I says: 'Ed, you know what's good for folks who can't see? Ain't there nothin',' says I, 'that'll help them who can't hear? How about ear trumpets?' And Ed wrote that an ear trumpet would probably help some, but why didn't I try a pair of them patent fixin's that are made to put inside deef people's ears? He'd known of cases where they helped a lot. So I sent for a pair, and the biggest ear trumpet made, besides. And when I met Debby to-day I give 'em to her and told her to put the patent things IN her ears and couple on the trumpet outside 'em. And not to say nothin' to you, but just surprise you. And it did surprise you, didn't it?"

The wrathful Mr. Tidditt could wait no longer. He burst into a vivid description of the "surprise." Bailey was aghast. Captain Cy laughed until his face was purple.

"I declare, Cy!" exclaimed the dejected purchaser of the "ear fixin's" and the trumpet. "I do declare I'm awful sorry! if you'd only told me she was no good I'd have let her alone; but I thought 'twas just the deefness. I--I--"

"I know, Bailey; you meant well, like the layin'-on-of-hands doctor who rubbed the rheumatic man's wooden leg. All right; _I forgive you. 'Twas worth it all to see Asaph's face when Marm Beasley was complimentin' him. Ha! ha! Oh, dear me! I've laughed till I'm sore. But there's one thing I SHOULD like to do, if you don't mind: I should like to pick out my next housekeeper myself."

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