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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThankful's Inheritance - Chapter 18
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Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 18 Post by :candy123 Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :1562

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Thankful's Inheritance - Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII

The walk was a long one. It took them a good way from the more populous section of East Wellmouth, over the hills and, at last, along the beach at the foot of the bluff. It was an odd season of the year for a stroll by the seaside, but neither Thankful nor the captain cared for that. In fact it is doubtful if either could have told afterward just where they had been. There were so many and such wonderful things to tell, to speculate upon, and to discuss.

Thankful told of her brother's return, of Mr. Cobb's miraculous generosity, and, for the first time, of the ghostly haunting of the little back bedroom. In the latter story Captain Obed seemed to find much amusement. He was skeptical.

"I've heard of a good many ghosts in my time," he said, "but I never heard of one that could stand daylight or common-sense. The idea of your bein' troubled all this time by that snorin' business or whatever 'tis. Why didn't you tell me about it? I'd have had that spook out of that bedroom afore this, I bet you."

"It seemed so silly," confessed Thankful, "that I was ashamed to tell anybody. But there's SOMETHIN' there. I heard it the first night I came, and Rebecca Timpson heard it later on, and then Emily and I and Solomon heard it all together."

"Yes. Well, then, let's see WHEN you heard it. Every time 'twas when there was a storm; rain and wind and the like of that, eh?"

"Yes. I've slept in that room myself a good many times, but never when there was a gale of wind or rain. That's so; 'twas always in a storm that it came."

"Um-hum. And it always snored. Ho! ho! that IS funny! A ghost with a snore. Must have a cold in its head, I cal'late."

"You wouldn't laugh if you'd heard it last night. And it didn't snore the first time. It said 'Oh, Lord,' then."

"Humph! so you said. Well, that does complicate things, I will give in. The wind in a water-pipe might snore, but it couldn't say 'Oh, Lord!' not very plain. You heard that the first night, afore Kenelm and I got there."

"Yes. And there wasn't another person in that house except Emily and me; I know that."

"I wonder if you do know it. . . . Well, I'll have a whack at that room myself and if a spook starts snorin when I'm there I'll--I'll put a clothespin on its nose, after I've thanked it for scarin' old Sol into repentance and decency. It took a spirit to do that. No livin' human could have worked THAT miracle."

"I agree with you. Well, now I know why he acted the way he did whenever Uncle Abner's name was mentioned. I have a feelin'--at least I imagine there may have been somethin' else, somethin' we don't know and never will know, between Solomon and my uncle. There may be some paper, some agreement, hid around somewheres that is legally bindin' on the old sinner. I can't hardly believe just breakin' a promise would make him give anybody fifteen hundred dollars."

"Maybe, but I don't know; he's always been superstitious and a great feller for Spiritu'list camp-meetin's and so on. And he was always regular at prayer-meetin'. Sometimes that sort of a swab, knowin' how mean he actually is, tries to square his meanness with the Almighty by bein' prominent in the church. There may be the kind of paper you say, but I shouldn't wonder if 'twas just scare and a bad conscience."

"Well, I'm grateful to him, anyhow. And, as for John's kindness, I--I don't know what to say. Last night I thought this might be the blackest Christmas ever I had; but now it looks as if it might be one of the brightest. And it's all so strange, so strange it should have come on Christmas. It seems as if the Lord had planned it so."

"Maybe He did. But it ain't so strange when you come to think of it. Your brother came home on Christmas Eve because he thought--or I shouldn't wonder if he did--that you'd be more likely to forgive him and take him in then. Solomon came over when he did on account of his hearin' that Holliday Kendrick was comin'. All days, Christmas or any other, are alike to Sol when there's a dollar to be sighted with a spyglass. And as for John's givin' you the deed today, I presume likely that was a sort of Christmas present; probably he meant to give it to you for that. So the Christmas part ain't so wonderful, after all."

"Yes, it is. It's all wonderful. I ought to be a very, very happy woman. If John and Emily only come together again I shall be, sure and sartin'. Of course, though," she added, with emphasis, "I shan't let him give me that land. I'll make some arrangement to pay him for it, a little at a time, if no other way."

The captain opened his mouth to protest, but there was an air of finality in Thankful's tone which caused him to defer the protest until another time.

"Well--well, all right," he said. "That can be talked about later on. But how about yourself? I suppose you'll keep right on with the boardin'-house now?"

"Of course."

"It'll be pretty hard work for you alone, won't it? Especially if Emily and John should take a notion to get married."

"Oh, well! I'm used to bein' alone. I shan't mind--much. Why! here we are right at the foot of our path. I've been talkin' so fast I didn't realize we'd got here already. Do you suppose it's safe to go up to the house now, Obed?"

"I guess so. We can go in the kitchen way and I'll make noise enough to warn all hands that we're comin'. Who's that by the back door; John, ain't it? No, it ain't; it's Kenelm."

Kenelm and Imogene were standing at the kitchen door. When the captain and Mrs. Barnes drew near they saw that they were in danger of interrupting what seemed to be a serious conversation. Neither of the parties to that conversation noticed them until they were close at hand. Imogene had a slip of paper in her hand.

Captain Obed, whose mind was occupied with but one thought just then, asked a question.

"Imogene," he asked in a loud whisper, "where's Miss Emily?"

Imogene started and turned. Kenelm also started. He looked embarrassed.

"Eh!" cried Imogene. "Oh, it's you, Mrs. Thankful. I was wonderin' where you was. I've been havin' a little talk with Kenelm here. It's all right, Mrs. Thankful."

"What's all right?" asked Thankful.

"About your brother workin' here in Kenelm's place. He don't mind. You don't, do you, Kenelm?"

Mr. Parker, who had been standing upon one foot and pawing like a restless horse with the other, shifted his position.

"No-o," he drawled. "I--I don't know's I do."

Thankful was disturbed. "I'm sorry you said anything yet awhile, Imogene," she said. "My plans about Jedediah are hardly made yet. I do hate to make you lose your place, Kenelm. If I could see my way clear to keepin' two men I'd do it, but I declare I can't see it."

"That's all right, ma'am," said Kenelm. "I ain't partic'lar."

"He don't mind a bit, Mrs. Thankful," put in Imogene. "Honest, he don't. He don't have to work unless he's obliged to--not much anyhow. Kenelm's got money, you know."

"I know; at least I've heard he had some money. But 'tain't because he needs the money that I feel bad; it's because of his engagement to you, Imogene. I suppose you're plannin' to be married some time or other and--"

"Oh, that's all right, too," interrupted Imogene eagerly. "You needn't worry about our engagement. She needn't worry about that, need she, Kenelm?"

"No," said Kenelm shortly.

Captain Obed thought it time to repeat his first question.

"Where's Miss Emily?" he asked.

"She's in the livin'-room."

"Is--is anybody with her?"

Imogene nodded. "Um-hum," she said gleefully, "he's there, too."

"Who?" The captain and Thankful spoke in concert.

"Mr. John Kendrick. I let him in and I didn't tell her who it was at all. She didn't know till she went in herself and found him. Then I came right out and shut the door. Oh," with another nod, "I've got some sense, even if I did come from the Orphans' Home."

Captain Obed and Thankful looked at each other.

"Then he did come here," exclaimed Thankful.

"Course he did. I told you he wa'n't quite a fool. Been there some time, has he?"

"Yes. Shall I tell 'em you've come? I'll knock first."

"No, no." Thankful's reply was emphatic. "Where's the rest of the folks?" she asked.

"Georgie and Mr. Cahoon--your brother, I mean--have gone up to the village with the other one, the Cobb man."

"What have they gone to the village for?"

"To help Mr. Cobb get his horse and team at Chris Badger's. He's gone, you know."

"Who's gone?"

"Why, the Cobb one. He's gone home again. I tried to get him to stay for dinner; so did Miss Emily. We knew you'd want him to. But he wouldn't stay. Said he was goin' home. Seemed to me he wanted to get out of the house quick as ever he could. He gave Georgie a dollar for Christmas."

"WHAT!" Captain Obed leaned against the corner of the house. "A dollar!" he groaned. "Sol Cobb gave somebody a dollar for Christmas! Don't pinch me, anybody; I don't want to wake up. Let me enjoy my dream long as I can. Thankful, did you say Sol looked sick?"

"I said he looked pretty nearly sick when he came down this mornin'."

"I believe it. It must have been a mighty serious attack. Did Georgie take the dollar with him?"

"No. He left it with Miss Emily."

"That's a mercy. The outdoor air may make Sol feel more rational and soon's he came to his senses, he'd want that dollar back. Tut! tut! tut! Don't talk to ME! I shall believe in ghosts pretty soon."

Thankful looked troubled and annoyed.

"I'm awful sorry he went," she said. "The poor old thing! He was so miserable I did pity him. I must drive over and see him tomorrow, sure. But what makes me feel the worst," she added, "is to think of Jedediah's cruisin' up to the village dressed in the rags he was wearin'. He looked like--like somethin' the cat brought in. And everybody'll want to know who he is; and when they find he's my brother! And on Christmas Day, too!"

"Imogene!" it was Emily's voice. "Imogene, where are you?"

Captain Obed roared a greeting.

"Merry Christmas, all hands," he shouted. "Hey, you, John Kendrick; are you there?"

There was no answer. Thankful did not wait for one; she rushed into the house. John Kendrick was alone in the living-room when she reached it. Emily had fled. Thankful looked at Mr. Kendrick and the look gave her the information she wanted.

"Oh, Mr. Kendrick--John," she cried. "I shall call you John now; I can, can't I--where is she?"

John smiled. He looked ready to smile at all creation. "I think she is upstairs," he said. "At least she ran in that direction when she heard the captain call."

Thankful started for the hall and the stairs. At the door she turned.

"Don't you go away, John," she ordered. "Don't you dare go away from this house. You're goin' to have dinner here THIS day, if you never do again."

John, apparently, had no intention of going away. He smiled once more and walked toward the dining-room. Captain Obed met him at the threshold.

"Well?" shouted the captain. "Well? What have you got to say for yourself now, eh?"

John laughed. "Not much, Captain," he answered, "not much, except that I've been an idiot."

"Yup. All right. But that ain't what I want to know. I want to know--" he stopped and gazed keenly at his friend's face. "I don't know's I do want to know, either," he added. "I cal'late I know it already. When a young feller stands around looking as sheepish as if he'd been caught stealin' hens' eggs and grinnin' at the same time as if he was proud of it, then--then there's just one thing happened to him. I cal'late you've found out why she wouldn't marry Heman Daniels, eh? My, but I'm glad! You don't deserve it, but I'm glad just the same. Let's shake hands again."

They were still shaking and the captain was crowing like a triumphant rooster over his friend's good fortune and the humiliation in store for the "tattle-tales and character-naggers" among his fellow-townsmen when Imogene appeared.

"Is Mrs. Thankful here?" she asked. "Well, never mind. You'll do, Cap'n Bangs. Will you and Mr. Kendrick come out here to the back door a minute? I'd like to have you witness somethin'."

Captain Obed's forehead wrinkled in surprise.

"Witness somethin'?" he repeated. Then, with a glance at John, who was as puzzled as he, "Humph! I witnessed somethin' this mornin' and now I'm to witness somethin' else. I'll begin to be an expert pretty soon, won't I? Humph! What--well, heave ahead, Imogene. I'll come."

Imogene conducted them to the kitchen door where Mr. Parker still stood, looking remarkably foolish. Imogene's manner, however, was very business-like.

"Now then," she said, addressing the two "witnesses," "you see this piece of paper. Perhaps you'd better read it first."

She handed the paper to Captain Obed, who looked at it and passed it over to John. It was the statement, signed by Kenelm, in which he agreed to marry Imogene whenever she asked him to do so.

"You see what 'tis, don't you?" asked Imogene. "Yes. Well, now you watch and see what I do with it."

She tore the agreement into small pieces. Stepping into the kitchen she put the pieces in the stove.

"There!" she exclaimed, returning to the door. "That ends that. He and I," pointing to Kenelm, "ain't engaged any longer, and he don't have to work here any longer. Is it all plain to both of you?"

It was not altogether plain even yet. The expression on the faces of the witnesses proved that.

"Now, Kenelm," said Imogene cheerfully, "you can leave if you want to. And," with a mischievous chuckle, "when you get there you can give your sister my love, the inmate's love, you know. Lordy! Won't she enjoy gettin' it!"

When Kenelm had gone, which he did immediately and without a word, Imogene vouchsafed an explanation.

"I never did want to marry him," she said. "When I get ready to marry anybody it'll be somebody with more get-up-and-git than he's got, I hope. But I was ready to do anything to help Mrs. Thankful from frettin' and when he talked about quittin' his job right in the busy season I had to keep him here somehow, I just HAD to. He was kind of--of mushy and soft about me first along--I guess guys of his kind are likely to be about any woman that'll listen to 'em--and when his sister got jealous and put him up to leavin' I thought up my plan. I got him to ask me--he'd as much as asked me afore--and then I made him sign that paper. Ugh! the silliness I had to go through afore he would sign it! Don't ask me about it or I shan't eat any dinner. But he did sign it and I knew I had him under my thumb. He's scared of that sister of his, but he's more scared of losin' his money. And she's just as scared of that as he is. THEY didn't want any breachin' of promises--No sir-ee! Ho! ho!"

She stopped to laugh in gleeful triumph. John laughed too. Captain Obed scratched his head.

"But, hold on there; heave to, Imogene!" he ordered. "I don't seem to get the whole of this yet. You did agree to marry him. Suppose he'd said you'd got to marry him, what then?"

"He wouldn't. He didn't want to marry me--not after I'd took my time at bossin' him around a while. And if he had--well, if he had, and I'd had to do it, I would, I suppose. I'd do anything for Mrs. Thankful, after what's she's done for me. Miss Emily and me had a talk about self-sacrifice and I see my duty plain. I told Miss Emily why I did it that night when you all came home from the Fair. She understood the whole thing."

The captain burst into a roar of laughter.

"Ho! ho!" he shouted. "Well, Imogene, I said you beat all my goin' to sea, and you do--you sartin do. Now, I'd like to be on hand and see how Hannah takes it. If I know her, now that that engagement ain't hangin' over her, she'll even up with her brother for all she's had to put up with. Ho! ho! Poor old Kenelm's in for a warm Christmas."

And yet Kenelm's Christmas was not so "warm" after all. He told Hannah of his broken engagement, wasting no words--which, for him, was very remarkable--and expressing no regret whatever. Hannah listened, at first with joy, and then, when Imogene's "love" was conveyed to her, with growing anger.

"The idea!" she cried. "And you bring me over a message like that. From her--from an Orphans' Home inmate to your own sister! And you let her walk over you, chuck you out as if you was a wornout doormat she'd wiped her boots on, and never said a word. Well, I'll say it for you. I'll tell her what I think of her. And she was cal'latin' to sue YOU for breaches of promise, was she? Humph! Two can play at that game. I don't know's I shan't have you sue her."

"I don't want to. I told you this mornin' I didn't care nothin' about marryin' her. And you didn't want me to yourself. Now that it's all over you ought to be happy, I should think. I don't see what you're growlin' about."

"No, I suppose you don't. You--you," with withering contempt, "you haven't got the self-respect of--of a woodtick. I'm--I declare I'm perfectly prospected with shame at havin' such a brother in my family. And after cruisin' around with her and takin' her to the Cattle Show--"

"You went to the Cattle Show yourself."

"I don't care if I did. Now you march yourself upstairs and change your clothes."

"Aw, now, Hannah. These clothes are good enough."

"Good enough! For Christmas Day! I should think you'd be ashamed. Oh, you make me so provoked! If folks knew what I know about you--"

Kenelm interrupted, a most unusual thing for him.

"S'posin' they knew what I know about you," he observed.

"What? What do you mean by that? What have I done to be ashamed of?"

"I don't know. I don't know what you did. I don't even know where you went. But when a person crawls down a ladder in the middle of the night and goes off somewhere with--with somebody else and don't get home until 'most mornin', then--well, then I cal'late folks might be interested if they knew, that's all."

Hannah's face was a picture, a picture to be studied. For the first time in her life she was at a loss for words.

"I ain't askin' no questions," went on Kenelm calmly. "I ain't told nobody and I shan't unless--unless somebody keeps naggin' and makes me mad. But I shan't change my clothes this day; and I shan't do nothin' else unless I feel like it, either."

His sister stared at him blankly for a moment. Then she fled from the room. Kenelm took his pipe from his pocket, filled and lighted it, and smoked, smiling between puffs at the ceiling. The future looked serene and rosy--to Kenelm.


Christmas dinner at the High Cliff House was a joyful affair, notwithstanding that the promise of fair weather had come to naught and it was raining once more. John stayed for that dinner, so did Captain Obed. The former and Miss Emily said very little and their appetites were not robust, but they appeared to be very happy indeed. Georgie certainly was happy and Jedediah's appetite was all that might have been expected of an appetite fed upon the cheapest of cheap food for days and compelled to go without any food for others. Thankful was happy, too, or pretended to be, and Captain Obed laughed and joked with everyone. Yet he seemed to have something on his mind, and his happiness was not as complete as it might have been.

Everyone helped Imogene wash the dishes; then John and Emily left the kitchen bound upon some mysterious errand. Captain Obed and Georgie donned what the captain called "dirty weather rigs" and went out to give George Washington and Patrick Henry and the poultry their Christmas dinner.

The storm had flooded the low land behind the barn. The hen yard was in the center of a miniature island. The walls of the pigsty which Thankful had had built rose from a lake.

"It's a mercy Pat moved to drier quarters, eh, second mate!" chuckled the captain. "He'd have had to sleep with a life-preserver on if he stayed here."

They fed the hens and gave George Washington a liberal measure of oats and a big forkful of hay.

"Don't want him to go hungry Christmas Day," said Captain Obed. "Now let's cruise around and see if Patrick Henry is singin' out for liberty or death."

The pig was not, apparently, "singing out" for anything. When they reached the wall of the pen by the washshed he was not in sight. But they heard him, somewhere back in the darkness beneath the shed, breathing stertorously, apparently sound asleep.

Georgie laughed. "Hear him," he said. "He's so fat he always makes that noise when he's asleep. And he's awful smart. When it's warm and nice weather he sleeps out here in the sun. When it rains and is cold, same as now, he always goes way back in there. Hear him! Don't he make a funny noise."

Emily came hurrying around the corner of the house.

"Captain Bangs," she whispered. "Captain Bangs!"

The captain looked at her. He was about to ask why she whispered instead of speaking aloud, but the expression on her face caused him to change his question to "What's the matter?"

Emily looked at Georgie before replying.

"I--I want to see you," she answered. "I want you to come with me. Come quick. Georgie, you must stay in the kitchen with Imogene."

Georgie did not want to stay in the kitchen, but when he found Jedediah there he was more complacent. The ex-gold seeker and his tales of adventure had a tremendous fascination for Georgie.

Emily led the way toward the front stairs and Captain Obed followed.

"What's up?" he whispered. "What's all the mystery about?"

"We don't know--yet. But we want you to help us find out. John and I have been up to look at the haunted room and--and IT'S THERE."

"There! What?"

"The--the ghost, or whatever it is. We heard it. Come!"

At the door of the rooms which were the scene of Mr. Cobb's recent supernatural experience and of Miss Timpson's "warning" they found Thankful and John standing, listening. Thankful looked rather frightened. John was eager and interested.

"You found him, Emily," he whispered. "Good. Captain, you and I are commissioned to lay the ghost. And the ghost is in. Listen!"

They listened. Above the patter and rattle of the rain on the roof they heard a sound, the sound which two or three members had heard the previous night, the sound of snoring.

"I should have gone in before," whispered John, "but they wanted me to wait for you. Come on, Captain."

They opened the door of the larger room and entered on tiptoe. The snoring was plainly heard now and it seemed, as they expected, to come from the little room adjoining. Into that room the party proceeded, the men in the lead. There was no one there save themselves and nothing out of the ordinary to be seen. But the snoring kept on, plainer than ever.

John looked behind the furniture and under the bed.

"It's no use doin' that," whispered Thankful. "I've done that myself fifty times."

Captain Obed was walking about the room, his ear close to the wall, listening. At a point in the center of the rear wall, that at the back of the house, he stopped and listened more intently than ever.

"John," he whispered eagerly, "come here."

John came.

"Listen," whispered the captain. "It's plainer here than anywhere else, ain't it?"

"Yes. Yes, I think it is. But where does it come from?"

"Somewhere overhead, seems to me. Give me that chair."

Cautiously and silently he placed the chair close to the wall, stood upon it, and, with his ear against the wallpaper, moved his head backward and forward and up and down. Then he stopped moving and reaching up felt along the wall with his hands.

"I've got it," he whispered. "Here's the place."

His fingers described a circle on the wall. He tapped gently in the middle of the circle.

"Hark!" he said. "All solid out here, but here--hollow as a drum. It's--it's a stovepipe hole, that's what 'tis. There was a stove here one time or 'nother and the pipe hole was papered over."

"But--but what of it?" whispered Thankful. "I don't care about stovepipe holes. It's that dreadful noise I want to locate. I hear it now, just as plain as ever."

"Where could a stovepipe go to from here?" mused the captain. "Not into the kitchen; the kitchen chimney's way over t'other side. Maybe there was a chimney here afore the house was moved."

"But the snoring?" faltered Emily. "Don't you hear it?"

Captain Obed put his ear against the covered stovepipe hole. He listened and as he listened his face took on a new expression, an expression of sudden suspicion, then of growing certainty, and, a moment later, of huge amusement.

He stepped down from the chair.

"Stay right where you are," he ordered. "Don't move and don't make any noise. I'll be right back."

He hurried out. They waited. The snoring kept on and on. Suddenly it ceased. Then, in that very room, or so it seemed, sounded a grunt and a frightened squeal. And then a voice, a hollow voice which cried:

"Ahoy, all hands! I'm the ghost of Nebuchadnezzar's first wife and I want to know what you folks mean by wakin' me up."

The three in the back bedroom looked at each other.

"It's Captain Bangs!" cried Emily.

"It's Obed!" exclaimed Thankful.

"He's found it," shouted Kendrick. "Come on."

The captain was not in the kitchen when they got there. He had gone out of doors, so Imogene said. Unmindful of the rain they rushed out and around the corner, behind and below the washshed. Patrick Henry was running about his pen, apparently much disturbed, but Captain Obed was not in sight.

"Where is he?" demanded Thankful. "Where's he gone to?"

"Hello there, John!" cried a voice from the darkness at the rear of the pigsty under the kitchen. "Come in here. Never mind your clothes. Come in."

John vaulted over the rail of the pen and disappeared. A few moments later he came out again in company with the captain. Both were laughing heartily.

"We've got the answer," puffed Captain Obed, who was out of breath. "We've laid the ghost. You remember I told you that day when we first explored this place that old Laban Eldredge had this pigpen built. Afore that 'twas all potato cellar, and at one time afore the house was made over there must have been a stove in that back bedroom. There's no chimney, but there's cracks between the boards at the back of that pigpen and any noise down here goes straight up between the walls and out of that stovepipe hole like a speakin' tube. You heard me when I spoke to you just now, didn't you?"

"Yes--yes," answered Emily. "We heard you, but--but what was it that snored? What was the ghost?"

Captain Obed burst into a shout of laughter. "There he is," he said, pointing.

Thankful and Emily looked.

"What?" cried the latter.

"The PIG?" exclaimed Thankful.

"That's what. Georgie gave me a hint when he and I was out here just now. Old Pat was asleep way in back there and snorin' like a steam engine. And Georgie said he never slept there unless 'twas a storm, rainin' same as 'tis now. And every time you heard the--ho! ho!--the ghost, 'twas on a stormy night. It stormed the night you got here, and when Becky Timpson had her warnin', and last night when Sol Cobb got his. Ho! ho! ho! Patrick Henry's the ghost. Well, he's a healthy old spirit."

Emily laughed until the tears came into her eyes.

"The pig!" she cried. "Oh, Aunt Thankful! You and I were frightened almost to death last night--and of that creature there. Oh, dear me!"

Thankful laughed, too, but she was not fully convinced.

"Maybe 'twas the pig that snored," she admitted. "And of course whatever we heard came up that pipe hole. But there was no pig there on that first night; I didn't buy the pig until long afterwards. And, besides, what I heard THAT night talked; it said, 'Oh, Lord!' Patrick Henry may be a smart pig, but he can't talk."

This was something of a staggerer, but the captain was still certain he was on the right track.

"Then somethin' else was there," he declared. "Somebody was down under the house here, that's sartin. Who could it have been? Never mind; I'll find out. We'll clear up the whole of this ghost business, now we've got started. Maybe we can find some hint in there now. John, go up and fetch a lantern, there's a good fellow, and we'll have a look."

John brought the lantern and by its light the two men explored the recesses of Patrick Henry's bed chamber. When they emerged, covered with dust and cobwebs, the captain held something in his hand.

"I don't know what 'tis," he said. "Maybe nothin' of any account, but 'twas trod down in the corner close to the wall. Humph? Eh? Why, it's a mitten, ain't it?"

It was a mitten, a much worn one, and on the inside of the wrist-hand were worked three letters.

"K. I. P." read Captain Obed. "What's 'K. I. P.' stand for?"

Imogene, who had joined the group, clapped her hands.

"I know," she cried. "Kenelm Issachar Parker."

Thankful nodded. "That's it," she agreed. "And--and--why, now I come to think of it, I remember hearin' Hannah pitchin' into Kenelm that first mornin' after our night at her house, for losin' his umbrella and a mitten."

"Right you are!" Captain Obed slapped his knee. "And Kenelm was out somewheres that night afore he and I came over here. He found his umbrella and he brought it home whole a week or so later. But it wa'n't whole all that time, because Seth Ellis told me Kenelm brought an umbrella in for him to fix. All turned inside out it was. Eh? Yes, sir! We're gettin' nigher port all the time. Kenelm came by this house that night, because 'twas him that saw your light in the window. I'll bet you he smashed his new umbrella on the way down from the club and crawled in here out of the wet to fix it. He couldn't fix it, so he left it here and came back after it the next day. And 'twas then he dropped this mitten."

Emily offered a suggestion.

"You said you saw someone hiding behind the henhouse that next morning, Captain," she said.

"So I did. And I thought 'twas one of Solon Taylor's boys. I'll bet 'twas Kenelm; he'd sneaked over to get the umbrella. It was him that said, 'Oh, Lord' that night; I'll bet high on it. When he thought of what Hannah'd say to his smashin' the umbrella she gave him it's a wonder he didn't say more than that. That's the answer--the whole answer--and I'll prove it next time I see Kenelm."

Which, by the way, he did.

Later in the afternoon John and Emily walked up to the village together. They asked Thankful and Captain Obed to accompany them, but the invitation was declined. However, as John had suddenly remembered that he had left his office door unlocked, he felt that he should go and Emily went with him.

"I presume likely," observed the captain, as he looked after them, "that I ought to feel conscience-struck for not sayin' yes when they asked me to come along, but somehow I don't. I have a sneakin' feelin' that they'll get on first-rate without our company, Thankful."

Thankful was silent. She was sitting by the window. The pair were alone together in the living-room now. Imogene and Jedediah and Georgie were in the kitchen making molasses candy.

"Well," observed Captain Obed, "that's so, ain't it? Don't you agree with me?"

Still there was no answer and, turning, the captain was surprised to see his companion wiping her eyes with her handkerchief.

"For thunder sakes!" he exclaimed, in dismay. "What's happened now? Are you cryin'?"

Thankful tried to smile. "No," she said. "I'm not cryin'. At least, I hadn't ought to cry. I ought to be awful happy and I am. Seein' those two go off together that way made me think that pretty soon they'd be goin' away for good. And I--I was a little lonesome, I guess."

"Sho! sho! You mustn't be lonesome. They won't get married yet awhile, I cal'late."

"No. I suppose not. But Emily will have to go next week back to her school, and she'll take Georgie with her. I'll miss 'em both terribly."

"Yes, so you will. But you've got your brother now. He'll be some company."

"Yes. But, unless he's changed more than I'm afraid he has, he'll be more responsibility than comfort. He means well enough, poor Jed, but he ain't what you'd call a capable person."

"Well, Imogene's capable enough, and she'll be here."

"Yes."

Silence for a time. Then Captain Obed spoke.

"Thankful," he said, earnestly, "I know what's worryin' you. It's just what you said, the responsibility of it all. It's too much for you, the responsibility of handlin' this big house and a houseful of boarders when they come. You hadn't ought to do it alone. You ought to have somebody to help."

"Perhaps I had, but I don't know who 'twill be. I can't afford to hire the kind of help I need."

"Why don't you take a partner?"

"A partner? Who, for goodness sakes?"

"Well--me. I've got some money of my own. I'll go in partners with you here. . . . Oh, now, now!" he added hastily. "Don't think there's any charity in this. There ain't at all. As I see it, this boardin' house is mighty good business and a safe investment. Suppose you and I go in partners on it, Thankful."

Thankful shook her head.

"You're awfully good," she said.

"No, I ain't."

"Yes, you are. But I couldn't do it, Obed."

"Why not?"

"You know why not. For the same reason I couldn't say yes to what you asked me a while ago. I can't let you help me out of pity."

"Pity!" He turned and stared at her. "Pity!" he repeated.

"Yes, pity. I know you're sorry for me. You said you were. And I know you'd do anything to help me, even--even--"

He interrupted.

"Thankful Barnes," he said, "did you think I asked you what I asked that time out of PITY?"

"Now, Obed--"

"Stop! Answer me. Did you think such a fool thing as THAT? You stay right where you are! I want you to look me in the face."

"Don't, Obed! Don't! Let me be. Don't!"

He paid not the slightest attention. He was bending over her, his hand beneath her chin, forcing her to look at him.

"Don't, Obed!" she begged.

"Thankful, you tell me. Did you think I asked you to marry me just because I pitied you. Just because I was sorry for you? Did you?"

"Obed, please!"

"Thankful, I've come to care for you more'n anything else in the world. I don't pity you. I've been pityin' myself for the last month because I couldn't have you--just you. I want you, Thankful Barnes, and if you'll marry me I'll be the happiest critter that walks."

"Oh, Obed, don't make it so hard for me. You said you wouldn't. And--and you can't care--really."

"I can't! Do you care for me? That's what I want to know."

"Obed, you and I ain't young folks. We're gettin' on towards old age. What would folks say if--"

He threw his arms about her and literally lifted her from the chair.

"I don't care a durn WHAT they say," he shouted, exultantly. "You've said what I was waitin' for. Or you've looked it, anyhow. Now then, WHEN shall we be married? That's the next thing for you to say, my girl."


They sat there in the gathering dusk and talked. The captain was uproariously gay. He could scarcely keep still, but whistled and drummed tunes upon the chair arm with his fingers. Thankful was more subdued and quiet, but she was happy, completely happy at last.

"This'll be some boardin'-house, this one of ours," declared the captain. "We'll build the addition you wanted and we'll make the city folks sit up and take notice. And," with a gleeful chuckle, "we won't have any ghost snorin' warnin's, either."

Thankful laughed. "No, we won't," she said. "And yet I'm awfully grateful to that--that--that pig ghost. If it hadn't been for him that mortgage would still be hangin' over us. And Solomon would never have been scared into doin' what he promised Uncle Abner he would do. Perhaps he'll be a better man, a more generous man to some of his other poor victims after this. I hope he will."

"So do I, but I have my doubts."

"Well, we'll never kill old Patrick Henry, will we? That would be TOO ungrateful."

Captain Obed slapped his knee.

"Kill him!" he repeated: "I should say not! Why, he's your Uncle Abner and Rebecca Timpson's sister Medora and old Laban Eldredge and I don't know how many more. Killin' him would be a double back-action massacre. No indeed, we won't kill him! Come on, let's go out and have a look at him now. I'd like to shake his hand, if he had one."

"But, Obed, it's rainin'."

"What of it? We don't care for rain. It's goin' to be all sunshine for you after this, my lady. I'm the weather prophet and I tell you so. God bless you, Thankful Barnes."

Thankful smiled.

"He has blessed me already, Obed," she said.


(THE END)
Joseph Crosby Lincoln's Novel: Thankful's Inheritance

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CHAPTER XVIICaptain Obed Bangs rose at his usual hour that Christmas morning, and the hour was an early one. When he looked from his bedroom window the clouds were breaking and a glance at his barometer, hung on the wall just beside that window, showed the glass to be rising and confirmed the promise of a fair day. He dressed and came downstairs. Hannah Parker came down soon afterward. The captain wished her a merry Christmas. Miss Parker shook her head; she seemed to be in a pessimistic mood. "I'm much obliged to you, Cap'n Bangs," she said, "and I'm sure
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