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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Portygee - Chapter 5
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The Portygee - Chapter 5 Post by :leonard063083 Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :3030

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The Portygee - Chapter 5


Outside of the gates of the Snow place Albert was making many acquaintances and a few friends. After church on Sundays his grandmother had a distressful habit of suddenly seizing his arm or his coat-tail as he was hurrying toward the vestibule and the sunshine of outdoors, and saying: "Oh, Albert, just a minute! Here's somebody you haven't met yet, I guess. Elsie"--or Nellie or Mabel or Henry or Charlie or George, whichever it happened to be--"this is my grandson, Albert Speranza." And the young person to whom he was thus introduced would, if a male, extend a hesitating hand, give his own an embarrassed shake, smile uncertainly and say, "Yes--er--yes. Pleased to meet you." Or, if of the other sex, would blush a little and venture the observation that it was a lovely morning, and wasn't the sermon splendid.

These Sabbath introductions led to week-day, or rather week-evening, meetings. The principal excitement in South Harniss was "going for the mail." At noon and after supper fully one-half of the village population journeyed to the post office. Albert's labors for Z. Snow and Co. prevented his attending the noon gatherings--his grandfather usually got the morning mail--but he early formed the habit of sauntering "down street" in the evening if the weather was not too cold or disagreeable. There he was certain to find groups of South Harniss youth of both sexes, talking, giggling, skylarking and flirting. Sometimes he joined one or the other of these groups; quite as often he did not, but kept aloof and by himself, for it may as well be acknowledged now, if it is not already plain, that the son of Miguel Carlos Speranza had inherited a share of his father's temperament and self-esteem. The whim of the moment might lead him to favor these young people with his society, but he was far from considering himself under obligation to do so. He had not the least idea that he was in any way a snob, he would have hotly resented being called one, but he accepted his estimate of his own worth as something absolute and certain, to be taken for granted.

Now this attitude of mind had its dangers. Coupled with its possessor's extraordinary good looks, it was fascinating to a large percentage of the village girls. The Speranza eyes and the Speranza curls and nose and chin were, when joined with the easy condescension of the Speranza manner, a combination fatal to the susceptible. The South Harniss "flappers," most of them, enthused over the new bookkeeper in the lumber office. They ogled and giggled and gushed in his presence, and he was tolerant or bored, just as he happened to be feeling at the moment. But he never displayed a marked interest in any one of them, for the very good reason that he had no such interest. To him they were merely girls, nice enough in their way, perhaps, but that way not his. Most of the town young fellows of his age he found had a "girl" and almost every girl had a "fellow"; there was calf love in abundance, but he was a different brand of veal.

However, a great man must amuse himself, and so he accepted invitations to church socials and suppers and to an occasional dance or party. His style of dancing was not that of South Harniss in the winter. It was common enough at the hotel or the "tea house" in July and August when the summer people were there, but not at the town hall at the Red Men's Annual Ball in February. A fellow who could foxtrot as he could swept all before him. Sam Thatcher, of last year's class in the high school, but now clerking in the drug store, who had hitherto reigned as the best "two-stepper" in town, suddenly became conscious of his feet. Then, too, the contents of the three trunks which had been sent on from school were now in evidence. No Boston or Brockton "Advanced Styles" held a candle to those suits which the tailor of the late Miguel Carlos had turned out for his patron's only son. No other eighteen-year-older among the town's year-around residents possessed a suit of evening clothes. Albert wore his "Tux" at the Red Men's Ball and hearts palpitated beneath new muslin gowns and bitter envy stirred beneath the Brockton "Advanced Styles."

In consequence, by spring the social status of Albert Speranza among those of his own age in the village had become something like this: He was in high favor with most of the girls and in corresponding disfavor with most of the young fellows. The girls, although they agreed that he was "stand-offish and kind of queer," voted him "just lovely, all the same." Their envious beaux referred to him sneeringly among themselves as a "stuck-up dude." Some one of them remembered having been told that Captain Zelotes, years before, had been accustomed to speak of his hated son-in-law as "the Portygee." Behind his back they formed the habit of referring to their new rival in the same way. The first time Albert heard himself called a "Portygee" was after prayer meeting on Friday evening, when, obeying a whim, he had walked home with Gertie Kendrick, quite forgetful of the fact that Sam Thatcher, who aspired to be Gertie's "steady," was himself waiting on the church steps for that privilege.

Even then nothing might have come of it had he and Sam not met in the path as he was sauntering back across lots to the main road and home. It was a brilliant moonlight night and the pair came together, literally, at the bend where the path turns sharply around the corner of Elijah Doane's cranberry shanty. Sam, plowing along, head down and hands in his pockets, swung around that corner and bumped violently into Albert, who, a cigarette between his lips--out here in the fields, away from civilization and Captain Zelotes, was a satisfyingly comfortable place to smoke a cigarette--was dreaming dreams of a future far away from South Harniss. Sam had been thinking of Gertie. Albert had not. She had been a mere incident of the evening; he had walked home with her because he happened to be in the mood for companionship and she was rather pretty and always talkative. His dreams during the stroll back alone in the moonlight had been of lofty things, of poetry and fame and high emprise; giggling Gerties had no place in them. It was distinctly different with Sam Thatcher.

They crashed together, gasped and recoiled.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" exclaimed Albert.

"Can't you see where you're goin', you darned Portygee half-breed?" demanded Sam.

Albert, who had stepped past him, turned and came back.

"What did you say?" he asked.

"I said you was a darned half-breed, and you are. You're a no-good Portygee, like your father."

It was all he had time to say. For the next few minutes he was too busy to talk. The Speranzas, father and son, possessed temperament; also they possessed temper. Sam's face, usually placid and good-natured, for Sam was by no means a bad fellow in his way, was fiery red. Albert's, on the contrary, went perfectly white. He seemed to settle back on his heels and from there almost to fly at his insulter. Five minutes or so later they were both dusty and dirty and dishevelled and bruised, but Sam was pretty thoroughly licked. For one thing, he had been taken by surprise by his adversary's quickness; for another, Albert's compulsory training in athletics at school gave him an advantage. He was by no means an unscarred victor, but victor he was. Sam was defeated, and very much astonished. He leaned against the cranberry house and held on to his nose. It had been a large nose in the beginning, it was larger now.

Albert stood before him, his face--where it was not a pleasing combination of black and blue--still white.

"If you--if you speak of my father or me again like that," he panted, "I'll--I'll kill you!"

Then he strode off, a bit wobbly on his legs, but with dignity.

Oddly enough, no one except the two most interested ever knew of this encounter. Albert, of course, did not tell. He was rather ashamed of it. For the son of Miguel Carlos Speranza to conquer dragons was a worthy and heroic business, but there seemed to be mighty little heroism in licking Sam Thatcher behind 'Lije Doane's cranberry shack. And Sam did not tell. Gertie next day confided that she didn't care two cents for that stuck-up Al Speranza, anyway; she had let him see her home only because Sam had danced so many times with Elsie Wixon at the ball that night. So Sam said nothing concerning the fight, explaining the condition of his nose by saying that he had run into something in the dark. And he did not appear to hold a grudge against his conqueror; on the contrary when others spoke of the latter as a "sissy," Sam defended him. "He may be a dude," said Sam; "I don't say he ain't. But he ain't no sissy."

When pressed to tell why he was so certain, his answer was: "Because he don't act like one." It was not a convincing answer, the general opinion being that that was exactly how Al Speranza did act.

There was one young person in the village toward whom Albert found himself making exceptions in his attitude of serenely impersonal tolerance. That person was Helen Kendall, the girl who had come into his grandfather's office the first morning of his stay in South Harniss. He was forced to make these exceptions by the young lady herself. When he met her the second time--which was after church on his first Sunday--his manner was even more loftily reserved than usual. He had distinct recollections of their first conversation. His own part in it had not been brilliant, and in it he had made the absurd statement--absurd in the light of what came after--that he was certainly NOT employed by Z. Snow and Co.

So he was cool and superior when his grandmother brought them together after the meeting was over. If Helen noticed the superiority, she was certainly not over-awed by it, for she was so simple and natural and pleasant that he was obliged to unbend and be natural too. In fact, at their third meeting he himself spoke of the interview in the lumber office and again expressed his thanks for warning him of his grandfather's detestation of cigarettes.

"Gee!" he exclaimed, "I'm certainly glad that you put me on to the old boy's feelings. I think he'd have murdered me if he had come back and found me puffing a Pall Mall in there."

She smiled. "He does hate them, doesn't he?" she said.

"Hate them! I should say he did. Hating cigarettes is about the only point where he and Issy get along without an argument. If a traveler for a hardware house comes into the office smoking a cig, Issy opens all the windows to let the smell out, and Grandfather opens the door to throw the salesman out. Well, not exactly to throw him out, of course, but he never buys a single cent's worth of a cigarette smoker."

Helen glanced at him. "You must be awfully glad you're not a traveling salesman," she said demurely.

Albert did not know exactly what to make of that remark. He, in his turn, looked at her, but she was grave and quite unconcerned.

"Why?" he asked, after a moment.


"Why ought I to be glad I'm not a traveling salesman?"

"Oh, I don't know. It just seemed to me that you ought, that's all."

"But why?"

"Well, if you were you wouldn't make a great hit with your grandfather, would you?"

"Eh? . . . Oh, you mean because I smoke. Say, YOU'RE not silly enough to be down on cigarettes the way grandfather is, are you?"

"No-o, I'm not down on them, especially. I'm not very well acquainted with them."

"Neither is he. He never smoked one in his life. It's just country prejudice, that's all."

"Well, I live in the country, too, you know."

"Yes, but you're different."

"How do you know I am?"

"Oh, because any one can see you are." The manner in which this remark was made, a manner implying a wide knowledge of humanity and a hint of personal interest and discriminating appreciation, had been found quite effective by the precocious young gentleman uttering it. With variations to suit the case and the individual it had been pleasantly received by several of the Misses Bradshaw's pupils. He followed it with another equally tried and trustworthy.

"Say," he added, "would YOU rather I didn't smoke?"

The obvious reply should have been, "Oh, would you stop if I asked you to?" But Helen Kendall was a most disconcerting girl. Instead of purring a pleased recognition of the implied flattery, she laughed merrily. The Speranza dignity was hurt.

"What is there to laugh at?" he demanded. "Are you laughing at me?"

The answer was as truthful as truth itself.

"Why, of course I am," she replied; and then completed his discomfiture by adding, "Why should I care whether you smoke or not? You had better ask your grandfather that question, I should think."

Now Alberto Miguel Carlos Speranza had not been accustomed to this sort of treatment from young persons of the other sex, and he walked away in a huff. But the unusual is always attractive, and the next time he and Miss Kendall met he was as gracious and cordial as ever. But it was not long before he learned that the graciousness was, in her case, a mistake. Whenever he grew lofty, she took him down, laughed at him with complete frankness, and refused to treat him as anything but a boy. So they gradually grew friendly, and when they met at parties or church socials he spent most of the time in her company, or, rather, he would have so spent it had she permitted. But she was provokingly impartial and was quite as likely to refuse a dance with him to sit out one with Sam Thatcher or Ben Hammond or any other village youth of her acquaintance. However, although she piqued and irritated him, he was obliged to admit to his inner consciousness that she was the most interesting person he had yet discovered in South Harniss, also that even in the eyes of such connoisseurs as his fellow members of the senior class at school she would have been judged a "good looker," in spite of her country clothes.

He met her father, of course. The Reverend Mr. Kendall was a dreamy little old gentleman with white hair and the stooped shoulders of a student. Everybody liked him, and it was for that reason principally that he was still the occupant of the Congregational pulpit, for to quote Captain Zelotes, his sermons were inclined to be like the sandy road down to Setuckit Point, "ten mile long and dry all the way." He was a widower and his daughter was his companion and managing housekeeper. There was a half-grown girl, one of the numerous Price family, a cousin of Issachar's, who helped out with the sweeping, dish-washing and cooking, but Helen was the real head of the household.

"And she's a capable one, too," declared Mrs. Snow, when at supper one evening Helen's name had come into the conversation. "I declare when I was there yesterday to see the minister about readin' poetry to us at sewin'-circle next Monday that parlor was as neat as wax. And 'twas all Helen's work that kept it so, that was plain enough. You could see her way of settin' a vase or puttin' on a table cloth wherever you looked. Nobody else has just that way. And she does it after school or before school or 'most any odd time. And whatever 'tis is done right."

The housekeeper put in a word. "There's no doubt about that," she said, "and there ain't any more doubt that she don't get much help from her pa or that Maria B." There were so many Prices within the township limits that individuals were usually distinguished by their middle initial. "As for Mr. Kendall," went on Rachel, "he moves with his head in the clouds and his feet cruisin' with nobody at the wheel two-thirds of the time. Emma Smith says to me yesterday, says she, 'Mr. Kendall is a saint on earth, ain't he,' says she. 'Yes,' says I, 'and he'll be one in heaven any minute if he goes stumblin' acrost the road in front of Doctor Holliday's automobile the way I see him yesterday.' The doctor put on the brakes with a slam and a yell. The minister stopped right there in the middle of the road with the front wheels of that auto not MORE'N two foot from his old baggy trousers' knees, and says he, 'Eh? Did you want me, Doctor?' The doctor fetched a long breath. 'Why, no, Mr. Kendall,' he says, 'I didn't, but I come darn nigh gettin' you.' I don't know what WOULD become of him if he didn't have Helen to look out for him."

As they came to know each other better their conversation dealt with matters more personal. They sometimes spoke of plans for the future. Albert's plans and ambitions were lofty, but rather vague. Helen's were practical and definite. She was to graduate from high school that spring. Then she was hoping to teach in the primary school there in the village; the selectmen had promised her the opportunity.

"But, of course," she said, "I don't mean to stay here always. When I can, after I have saved some money and if Father doesn't need me too badly, I shall go away somewhere, to Bridgewater, or perhaps to Radcliffe, and study. I want to specialize in my teaching, you know."

Albert regarded her with amused superiority.

"I don't see why on earth you are so anxious to be a school-marm," he said. "That's the last job I'd want."

Her answer was given promptly, but without the least trace of temper. That was one of the most provoking things about this girl, she would not lose her temper. He usually lost his trying to make her. She spoke now, pleasantly, and deliberately, but as if she were stating an undesirable fact.

"I think it would be the last one you would get," she said.

"Why? Great Scott! I guess I could teach school if I wanted to. But you bet I wouldn't want to! . . . NOW what are you laughing at?"

"I'm not laughing."

"Yes, you are. I can always tell when you're laughing; you get that look in your eyes, that sort of--of--Oh, I can't tell you what kind of look it is, but it makes me mad. It's the same kind of look my grandfather has, and I could punch him for it sometimes. Why should you and he think I'm not going to amount to anything?"

"I don't think so. And I'm sure he doesn't either. And I wasn't laughing at you. Or, if I was, it--it was only because--"

"Well, because what?"

"Oh, because you are so AWFULLY sure you know--well, know more than most people."

"Meaning I'm stuck on myself, I suppose. Well, now I tell you I'm not going to hang around in this one-horse town all my life to please grandfather or any one else."

When he mentioned his determination to win literary glory she was always greatly interested. Dreams of histrionic achievement were more coldly received. The daughter of a New England country clergyman, even in these days of broadening horizons, could scarcely be expected to look with favor upon an actor's career.

June came and with it the first of the summer visitors. For the next three months Albert was happy with a new set of acquaintances. They were HIS kind, these young folks from the city, and his spare moments were for the most part spent in their society. He was popular with them, too. Some of them thought it queer that he should be living all the year in the village and keeping books for a concern like Z. Snow and Co., but juvenile society is tolerant and a youth who could sing passably, dance wonderfully and, above all, was as beautifully picturesque as Albert Speranza, was welcomed, especially by the girls. So the Saturdays and Sundays and evenings of that summer were pleasant for him. He saw little of Helen or Gertie Kendrick while the hotel or the cottages remained open.

Then came the fall and another long, dreary winter. Albert plodded on at his desk or in the yard, following Mr. Keeler's suggestions, obeying his grandfather's orders, tormenting Issy, doing his daily stint because he had to, not because he liked it. For amusement he read a good deal, went to the usual number of sociables and entertainments, and once took part in amateur theatricals, a play given by the church society in the town hall. There was where he shone. As the dashing young hero he was resplendent. Gertie Kendrick gazed upon him from the third settee center with shining eyes. When he returned home after it was over his grandmother and Mrs. Ellis overwhelmed him with praises.

"I declare you was perfectly splendid, Albert!" exclaimed Olive. "I was so proud of you I didn't know what to do."

Rachel looked upon him as one might look upon a god from Olympus.

"All I could think of was Robert Penfold," she said. "I says so to Laban: 'Laban,' says I, ain't he Robert Penfold and nobody else?' There you was, tellin' that Hannibal Ellis that you was innocent and some day the world would know you was, just the way Robert Penfold done in the book. I never did like that Hannie Ellis!"

Mrs. Snow smiled. "Mercy, Rachel," she said, "I hope you're not blamin' Hannie because of what he did in that play. That was his part, he had to do it."

But Rachel was not convinced. "He didn't have to be so everlastin' mean and spiteful about it, anyhow," she declared. "But there, that family of Ellises never did amount to nothin' much. But, as I said to Laban, Albert, you was Robert Penfold all over."

"What did Labe say to that?" asked Albert, laughing.

"He never had a chance to say nothin'. Afore he could answer, that Maria B. Price--she was settin' right back of me and eatin' molasses candy out of a rattly paper bag till I thought I SHOULD die--she leaned forward and she whispered: 'He looks more to me like that Stevie D. that used to work for Cap'n Crowell over to the Center. Stevie D. had curly hair like that and HE was part Portygee, you remember; though there was a little nigger blood in him, too,' she says. I could have shook her! And then she went to rattlin' that bag again."

Even Mr. Keeler congratulated him at the office next morning. "You done well, Al," he said. "Yes--yes--yes. You done fust-rate, fust-rate."

His grandfather was the only one who refused to enthuse.

"Well," inquired Captain Zelotes, sitting down at his desk and glancing at his grandson over his spectacles, "do you cal'late to be able to get down to earth this mornin' far enough to figger up the payroll? You can put what you made from play-actin' on a separate sheet. It's about as much as the average person makes at that job," he added.

Albert's face flushed. There were times when he hated his grandfather. Mr. Keeler, a moment later, put a hand on his shoulder.

"You mustn't mind the old man, Al," he whispered. "I expect that seein' you last night brought your dad's job back to him strong. He can't bear play-actin', you know, on your dad's account. Yes--yes. That was it. Yes--yes--yes."

It may have been a truthful explanation, but as an apology it was a limited success.

"My father was a gentleman, at any rate," snapped Albert. Laban opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again and walked back to his books.

In May, which was an unusually balmy month, the Congregational Sunday School gave an automobile excursion and box-luncheon party at High Point Light down at Trumet. As Rachel Ellis said, it was pretty early for picnickin', but if the Almighty's season was ahead of time there didn't seem to be any real good reason why one of his Sunday schools shouldn't be. And, which was the principal excuse for the hurry, the hotel busses could be secured, which would not be the case after the season opened.

Albert went to the picnic. He was not very keen on going, but his grandfather had offered him a holiday for the purpose, and it was one of his principles never to refuse a chance to get away from that office. Besides, a number of the young people of his age were going, and Gertie Kendrick had been particularly insistent.

"You just MUST come, Al," she said. "It won't be any fun at all if you don't come."

It is possible that Gertie found it almost as little fun when he did come. He happened to be in one of his moods that day; "Portygee streaks," his grandfather termed these moods, and told Olive that they were "that play-actor breakin' out in him." He talked but little during the ride down in the bus, refused to sing when called upon, and, after dinner, when the dancing in the pavilion was going on, stepped quietly out of the side door and went tramping along the edge of the bluff, looking out over the sea or down to the beach, where, one hundred and fifty feet below, the big waves were curling over to crash into a creamy mass of froth and edge the strand with lacy ripples.

The high clay bluffs of Trumet are unique. No other part of the Cape shows anything just like them. High Point Light crowns their highest and steepest point and is the flashing beacon the rays of which spell "America" to the incoming liner Boston bound.

Along the path skirting the edge of the bluff Albert strolled, his hands in his pockets and his thoughts almost anywhere except on the picnic and the picnickers of the South Harniss Congregational Church. His particular mood on this day was one of discontent and rebellion against the fate which had sentenced him to the assistant bookkeeper's position in the office of Z. Snow and Co. At no time had he reconciled himself to the idea of that position as a permanent one; some day, somehow he was going to break away and do--marvelous things. But occasionally, and usually after a disagreeable happening in the office, he awoke from his youthful day dreams of glorious futures to a realization of the dismal to-day.

The happening which had brought about realization in this instance was humorous in the eyes of two-thirds of South Harniss's population. They were chuckling over it yet. The majority of the remaining third were shocked. Albert, who was primarily responsible for the whole affair, was neither amused nor shocked; he was angry and humiliated.

The Reverend Seabury Calvin, of Providence, R. I., had arrived in town and opened his summer cottage unusually early in the season. What was quite as important, Mrs. Seabury Calvin had arrived with him. The Reverend Calvin, whose stay was in this case merely temporary, was planning to build an addition to his cottage porch. Mrs. Calvin, who was the head of the summer "Welfare Workers," whatever they were, had called a meeting at the Calvin house to make Welfare plans for the season.

The lumber for the new porch was ordered of Z. Snow and Co. The Reverend Calvin ordered it himself in person. Albert received the order.

"I wish this delivered to-morrow without fail," said Mr. Calvin. Albert promised.

But promises are not always easy to keep. One of Z. Snow and Co.'s teams was busy hauling lumber for the new schoolhouse at Bayport. The other Issachar had commandeered for deliveries at Harniss Center and refused to give up his claim. And Laban Keeler, as it happened, was absent on one of his "vacations." Captain Zelotes was attending a directors' meeting at Osham and from there was going to Boston for a day's stay.

"The ship's in your hands, Al," he had said to his grandson. "Let me see how you handle her."

So, in spite of Albert's promise, the Calvin lumber was not delivered on time. The Reverend gentleman called to ask why. His manner was anything but receptive so far as excuses were concerned.

"Young man," he said loftily, "I am accustomed to do business with business people. Did you or did you not promise to deliver my order yesterday?"

"Why, yes sir, I promised, but we couldn't do it. We--"

"I don't care to know why you didn't do it. The fact that you did not is sufficient. Will that order of mine be delivered to-day?"

"If it is a possible thing, Mr. Calvin, it--"

"Pardon me. Will it be delivered?"

The Speranza temper was rising. "Yes," said the owner of that temper, succinctly.

"Does yes mean yes, in this case; or does it mean what it meant before?"

"I have told you why--"

"Never mind. Young man, if that lumber is not delivered to-day I shall cancel the order. Do you understand?"

Albert swallowed hard. "I tell you, Mr. Calvin, that it shall be delivered," he said. "And it will be."

But delivering it was not so easy. The team simply could NOT be taken off the schoolhouse job, fulfillment of a contract was involved there. And the other horse had gone lame and Issachar swore by all that was solemn that the animal must not be used.

"Let old Calvin wait till to-morrow," said Issy. "You can use the big team then. And Cap'n Lote'll be home, besides."

But Albert was not going to let "old Calvin" wait. That lumber was going to be delivered, if he had to carry it himself, stick by stick. He asked Mr. Price if an extra team might not be hired.

"Ain't none," said Issy. "Besides, where'd your granddad's profits be if you spent money hirin' extry teams to haul that little mite of stuff? I've been in this business a good long spell, and I tell you--"

He did not get a chance to tell it, for Albert walked off and left him. At half-past twelve that afternoon he engaged "Vessie" Young--christened Sylvester Young and a brother to the driver of the depot wagon--to haul the Calvin lumber in his rickety, fragrant old wagon. Simpson Mullen--commonly called "Simp"--was to help in the delivery.

Against violent protests from Issy, who declared that Ves Young's rattle-trap wan't fit to do nothin' but haul fish heads to the fertilizer factory, the Calvin beams and boards were piled high on the wagon and with Ves on the driver's seat and Simp perched, like a disreputable carrion crow on top of the load, the equipage started.

"There!" exclaimed Albert, with satisfaction. "He can't say it wasn't delivered this time according to promise."

"Godfreys!" snorted Issy, gazing after the departing wagon. "He won't be able to say nothin' when he sees that git-up--and smells it. Ves carts everything in that cart from dead cows to gurry barrels. Whew! I'd hate to have to set on that porch when 'twas built of that lumber. And, unless I'm mistook, Ves and Simp had been havin' a little somethin' strong to take, too."

Mr. Price, as it happened, was not "mistook." Mr. Young had, as the South Harniss saying used to be, "had a jug come down" on the train from Boston that very morning. The jug was under the seat of his wagon and its contents had already been sampled by him and by Simp. The journey to the Calvin cottage was enlivened by frequent stops for refreshment.

Consequently it happened that, just as Mrs. Calvin's gathering of Welfare Workers had reached the cake and chocolate stage in their proceedings and just as the Reverend Mr. Calvin had risen by invitation to say a few words of encouragement, the westerly wind blowing in at the open windows bore to the noses and ears of the assembled faithful a perfume and a sound neither of which was sweet.

Above the rattle and squeak of the Young wagon turning in at the Calvin gate arose the voices of Vessie and Simp uplifted in song.

"'Here's to the good old whiskey, drink 'er daown,'" sang Mr. Young.

"'Here's to the good old whiskey,
Drink 'er daown!
Here's to the good old whiskey,
It makes you feel so frisky,
Drink 'er--'

Git up there, blank blank ye! What the blankety blank you stoppin' here for? Git up!"

The horse was not the only creature that got up. Mrs. Calvin rose from her chair and gazed in horror at the window. Her husband, being already on his feet, could not rise but he broke off short the opening sentence of his "few words" and stared and listened. Each Welfare Worker stared and listened also.

"Git up, you blankety blank blank," repeated Ves Young, with cheerful enthusiasm. Mr. Mullen, from the top of the load of lumber, caroled dreamily on:

"'Here's to the good old rum,
Drink 'er daown!
Here's to the good old rum,
Drink 'er daown!
Here's to the good old rum,
Ain't you glad that you've got some?
Drink 'er daown! Drink 'er daown!
Drink 'er daown!'"

And floating, as it were, upon the waves of melody came the odor of the Young wagon, an odor combining deceased fish and late lamented cow and goodness knows what beside.

The dissipated vehicle stopped beneath the parlor windows of the Calvin cottage. Mr. Young called to his assistant.

"Here we be, Simp!" he yelled. "A-a-ll ashore that's goin' ashore! Wake up there, you unmentionably described old rum barrel and help unload this everlastingly condemned lumber."

Mr. Calvin rushed to the window. "What does this mean?" he demanded, in frothing indignation.

Vessie waved at him reassuringly. "'Sall right, Mr. Calvin," he shouted. "Here's your lumber from Ze-lotes Snow and Co., South Harniss, Mass., U. S. A. 'Sall right. Let 'er go, Simp! Let 'er blankety-blank go!"

Mr. Mullen responded with alacrity and a whoop. A half dozen boards crashed to the ground beneath the parlor windows. Mrs. Calvin rushed to her husband's side.

"This is DREADFUL, Seabury!" she cried. "Send those creatures and--and that horrible wagon away at once."

The Reverend Calvin tried to obey orders. He commanded Mr. Young to go away from there that very moment. Vessie was surprised.

"Ain't this your lumber?" he demanded.

"It doesn't make any difference whether it is or not, I--"

"Didn't you tell Z. Snow and Co. that this lumber'd got to be delivered to-day or you'd cancel the order?"

"Never mind. That is my business, sir. You--"

"Hold on! Ho-o-ld on! _I got a business, too. My business is deliverin' what I'm paid to deliver. Al Speranzy he says to me: 'Ves,' he says, 'if you don't deliver that lumber to old man Calvin to-day you don't get no money, see. Will you deliver it?' Says I, 'You bet your crashety-blank life I'll (hic) d'liver it! What I say I'll do, I'll do!' And I'm deliverin' it, ain't I? Hey? Ain't I? Well, then, what the--" And so forth and at length, while Mrs. Calvin collapsed half fainting in an easy-chair, and horrified Welfare Workers covered their ears--and longed to cover their noses.

The lumber was delivered that day. Its delivery was, from the viewpoint of Messrs. Young and Mullen, a success. The spring meeting of the Welfare Workers was not a success.

The following day Mr. Calvin called at the office of Z. Snow and Co. He had things to say and said them. Captain Zelotes, who had returned from Boston, listened. Then he called his grandson.

"Tell him what you've just told me, Mr. Calvin," he said.

The reverend gentleman told it, with added details.

"And in my opinion, if you'll excuse me, Captain Snow," he said, in conclusion, "this young man knew what he was doing when he sent those drunken scoundrels to my house. He did it purposely, I am convinced."

Captain Zelotes looked at him.

"Why?" he asked.

"Why, because--because of--of what I said to him--er--er--when I called here yesterday morning. He--I presume he took offense and--and this outrage is the result. I am convinced that--"

"Wait a minute. What did you say for him to take offense at?"

"I demanded that order should be delivered as promised. I am accustomed to do business with business men and--"

"Hold on just a minute more, Mr. Calvin. We don't seem to be gettin' at the clam in this shell as fast as we'd ought to. Al, what have you got to say about all this business?"

Albert was white, almost as white as when he fought Sam Thatcher, but as he stood up to Sam so also did he face the irate clergyman. He told of the latter's visit to the office, of the threat to cancel the order unless delivery was promised that day, of how his promise to deliver was exacted, of his effort to keep that promise.

"I HAD to deliver it, Grandfather," he said hotly. "He had all but called me a liar and--and by George, I wasn't going to--"

His grandfather held up a warning hand.

"Sshh! Ssh!" he said. "Go on with your yarn, boy."

Albert told of the lame horse, of his effort to hire another team, and finally how in desperation he had engaged Ves Young as a last resort. The captain's face was serious but there was the twinkle under his heavy brows. He pulled at his beard.

"Humph!" he grunted. "Did you know Ves and Simp had been drinkin' when you hired 'em?"

"Of course I didn't. After they had gone Issy said he suspected that they had been drinking a little, but _I didn't know it. All I wanted was to prove to HIM," with a motion toward Mr. Calvin, "that I kept my word."

Captain Zelotes pulled at his beard. "All right, Al," he said, after a moment; "you can go."

Albert went out of the private office. After he had gone the captain turned to his irate customer.

"I'm sorry this happened, Mr. Calvin," he said, "and if Keeler or I had been here it probably wouldn't. But," he added, "as far as I can see, the boy did what he thought was the best thing to do. And," the twinkle reappeared in the gray eyes, "you sartinly did get your lumber when 'twas promised."

Mr. Calvin stiffened. He had his good points, but he suffered from what Laban Keeler once called "ingrowin' importance," and this ailment often affected his judgment. Also he had to face Mrs. Calvin upon his return home.

"Do I understand," he demanded, "that you are excusing that young man for putting that outrage upon me?"

"We-ll, as I say, I'm sorry it happened. But, honest, Mr. Calvin, I don't know's the boy's to blame so very much, after all. He delivered your lumber, and that's somethin'."

"Is that all you have to say, Captain Snow? Is that--that impudent young clerk of yours to go unpunished?"

"Why, yes, I guess likely he is."

"Then I shall NEVER buy another dollar's worth of your house again, sir."

Captain Zelotes bowed. "I'm sorry to lose your trade, Mr. Calvin," he said. "Good mornin'."

Albert, at his desk in the outer office, was waiting rebelliously to be called before his grandfather and upbraided. And when so called he was in a mood to speak his mind. He would say a few things, no matter what happened in consequence. But he had no chance to say them. Captain Zelotes did not mention the Calvin affair to him, either that day or afterward. Albert waited and waited, expecting trouble, but the trouble, so far as his grandfather was concerned, did not materialize. He could not understand it.

But if in that office there was silence concerning the unusual delivery of the lumber for the Calvin porch, outside there was talk enough and to spare. Each Welfare Worker talked when she reached home and the story spread. Small boys shouted after Albert when he walked down the main street, demanding to know how Ves Young's cart was smellin' these days. When he entered the post office some one in the crowd was almost sure to hum, "Here's to the good old whiskey, drink her down." On the train on the way to the picnic, girls and young fellows had slyly nagged him about it. The affair and its consequence were the principal causes of his mood that day; this particular "Portygee streak" was due to it.

The path along the edge of the high bluff entered a grove of scraggy pitch pines about a mile from the lighthouse and the picnic ground. Albert stalked gloomily through the shadows of the little grove and emerged on the other side. There he saw another person ahead of him on the path. This other person was a girl. He recognized her even at this distance. She was Helen Kendall.

She and he had not been quite as friendly of late. Not that there was any unfriendliness between them, but she was teaching in the primary school and, as her father had not been well, spent most of her evenings at home. During the early part of the winter he had called occasionally but, somehow, it had seemed to him that she was not quite as cordial, or as interested in his society and conversation as she used to be. It was but a slight indifference on her part, perhaps, but Albert Speranza was not accustomed to indifference on the part of his feminine acquaintances. So he did not call again. He had seen her at the picnic ground and they had spoken, but not at any length.

And he did not care to speak with her now. He had left the pavilion because of his desire to be alone, and that desire still persisted. However, she was some little distance ahead of him and he waited in the edge of the grove until she should go over the crest of the little hill at the next point.

But she did not go over the crest. Instead, when she reached it, she walked to the very edge of the bluff and stood there looking off at the ocean. The sea breeze ruffled her hair and blew her skirts about her and she made a pretty picture. But to Albert it seemed that she was standing much too near the edge. She could not see it, of course, but from where he stood he could see that the bank at that point was much undercut by the winter rains and winds, and although the sod looked firm enough from above, in reality there was little to support it. Her standing there made him a trifle uneasy and he had a mind to shout and warn her. He hesitated, however, and as he watched she stepped back of her own accord. He turned, re-entered the grove and started to walk back to the pavilion.

He had scarcely done so when he heard a short scream followed by a thump and a rumbling, rattling sound. He turned like a flash, his heart pounding violently.

The bluff edge was untenanted. A semi-circular section of the sod where Helen had stood was missing. From the torn opening where it had been rose a yellow cloud of dust.

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The Portygee - Chapter 6 The Portygee - Chapter 6

The Portygee - Chapter 6
CHAPTER VIA goodly number of the South Harniss "natives," those who had not seen him play tennis, would have been willing to swear that running was, for Albert Speranza, an impossibility. His usual gait was a rather languid saunter. They would have changed their minds had they seen him now. He ran along that path as he had run in school at the last track meet he had been second in the hundred-yard dash. He reached the spot where the sod had broken and, dropping on his knees, looked fearfully over. The dust was still rising, the sand and pebbles

The Portygee - Chapter 4 The Portygee - Chapter 4

The Portygee - Chapter 4
CHAPTER IVThe next morning, with much the same feeling that a convict must experience when he enters upon a life imprisonment, Albert entered the employ of "Z. Snow and Co., Lumber and Builders' Hardware." The day, he would have sworn it, was at least a year long. The interval between breakfast and dinner was quite six months, yet the dinner hour itself was the shortest sixty minutes he had ever known. Mr. Keeler had not yet returned to his labors, so there was no instruction in bookkeeping; but his grandfather gave him letters to file and long dreary columns of invoice