“Hi hum,” observed Mr.
Joel Macomber, putting down his knife and fork with
obvious reluctance and tilting back his chair.
“Hi hum-a-day! Man, born of woman, is of
few days and full of of somethin’,
I forget what George, what is it a man
born of woman is full of?”
George Kent, putting down his knife
and fork, smiled and replied that he didn’t
know. Mr. Macomber seemed shocked.
he repeated. “Tut, tut! Dear me, dear
me! A young feller that goes to prayer meetin’
every Friday night or at least waits outside
the meetin’-house door every Friday night and
yet he don’t remember his Scriptur’ well
enough to know what man born of woman is full of?
My soul and body! What’s the world comin’
Nobody answered. The six Macomber
children, Lemuel, Edgar, Sarah-Mary, Bemis, Aldora
and Joey, ages ranging from fourteen to two and a half,
kept on eating in silence or, if not quite
in silence, at least without speaking. They had
been taught not to talk at table; their mother had
taught them, their father playing the part of horrible
example. Mrs. Macomber, too, was silent.
She was busy stacking plates and cups and saucers
preparatory to clearing away. When the clearing
away was finished she would be busy washing dishes
and after that at some other household duty.
She was always busy and always behind with her work.
Her husband turned to the only other
person at the crowded table.
“Cap’n Sears,” he
demanded, “you know ’most everything.
What is it man born of woman is full of besides a
Sears Kendrick thoughtfully folded
his napkin. There was a hole in the napkin holes
were characteristic of the Macomber linen but
the napkin was clean; this was characteristic, too.
“Meanin’ yourself, Joel?”
he asked, bringing the napkin edges into line.
“Not necessarily. Meanin’
any man born of woman, I presume likely.”
“Humph! Know many that wasn’t born
Mr. Macomber’s not too intellectual
face creased into many wrinkles and the low ceiling
echoed with his laugh. “Not many, I don’t
cal’late,” he said, “that’s
a fact. But you ain’t answered my question,
Cap’n. What is man born of woman full of?”
Captain Kendrick placed the folded
napkin carefully beside his plate.
“Breakfast, just now, I presume
likely,” he said. “At least, I know
two or three that ought to be, judgin’ by the
amount of cargo I’ve seen ’em stow aboard
in the last half hour.” Then, turning to
Mrs. Macomber, he added, “I’m goin’
to help you with the dishes this mornin’, Sarah.”
The lady of the house had her own ideas on that subject.
“Indeed you won’t do anything
of the sort,” she declared. “The idea!
And you just out of a crippled bed, as you might say.”
This remark seemed to amuse her husband
hugely. “Ho, ho!” he shouted.
“That’s a good one! I didn’t
know the bed was crippled, Sarah. What’s
the matter with it; got a pain in the slats?”
Sarah Macomber seldom indulged in
retort. Usually she was too busy to waste the
time. But she allowed herself the luxury of a
half minute on this occasion.
“No,” she snapped, “but
it’s had one leg propped up on half a brick for
over a year. And at least once a week in all that
time you’ve been promisin’ to bring home
a new caster and fix it. If that bed ain’t
a cripple I don’t know what is.”
Joel looked a trifle taken aback.
His laugh this time was not quite as uproarious.
“Guess you spoke the truth that
time, Sarah, without knowin’ it. Who is
it they say always speaks the truth? Children
and fools, ain’t it? Well, you ain’t
a child scarcely, Sarah. Hope you ain’t
the other thing. Eh? Ho, ho!”
Mrs. Macomber was halfway to the kitchen
door, a pile of plates upon her arm. She did
not stop nor turn, but she did speak.
“Well,” she observed,
“I don’t know. I was one once in my
life, there’s precious little doubt about that.”
She left the room. Young Kent
and Captain Kendrick exchanged glances. Mr. Macomber
swallowed, opened his mouth, closed it and swallowed
again. Lemuel and Sarah-Mary, the two older children,
giggled. The clock on the mantel struck seven
times. The sound came, to the adults, as a timely
relief from embarrassment.
Captain Kendrick looked at his watch.
“What’s that?” he
exclaimed. “Six bells already? So ’tis.
I declare I didn’t think ’twas so late.”
Joel rose to his feet, moving for
him with marked rapidity.
he cried. “My, my! We’ve got
to get under way, George, if we want to make port
at the store afore ’Liphalet does. Come
on, George, hurry up.”
Kent lingered for a moment to speak
to Sears Kendrick. Then he emerged from the house
and he and Joel walked rapidly off together. They
were employed, one as clerk and bookkeeper and the
other as driver of the delivery wagon, at Eliphalet
Bassett’s Grocery, Dry Goods, Boots and Shoes
and Notion Store at the corner of the main road and
the depot road. Joel’s position there was
fixed for eternity, at least he considered it so,
having driven that same delivery wagon at the same
wage for twenty-two years. “Me and that
grocery cart,” Mr. Macomber was wont to observe,
“have been doin’ ’Liphalet’s
errands so long we’ve come to be permanent fixtures.
Yes, sir, permanent fixtures.” When this
was repeated to Mr. Bassett the latter affirmed that
it was true. “Every time the dum fool
goes out takin’ orders,” said Eliphalet,
“he stays so long that I begin to think he’s
turned into a permanent fixture. Takes
an order for a quarter pound of tea and a spool of
cotton and then hangs ’round and talks steady
for half an hour. Permanent fixture! Permanent
gas fixture, that’s what he is.”
George Kent did not consider himself
a permanent fixture at Bassett’s. He had
been employed there for three years, or ever since
the death of his father, Captain Sylvester Kent, who
had died at sea aboard his ship, the Ocean Ranger,
on the voyage home from Java to Philadelphia.
George remained in Bayport to study law with Judge
Knowles, who was interested in the young man and,
being a lawyer of prominence on the Cape, was an influential
friend worth having. The law occupied young Kent’s
attention in the evenings; he kept Mr. Bassett’s
books and sold Mr. Bassett’s brown sugar, calico
and notions during the days, not because he loved
the work, the place, or its proprietor, but because
the twelve dollars paid him each Saturday enabled
him to live. And, in order to live so cheaply
that he might save a bit toward the purchase of clothes,
law books and sundries, he boarded at Joel Macomber’s.
Sarah Macomber took him to board, not because she
needed company six children and a husband
supplied a sufficiency of that but because
three dollars more a week was three dollars more.
Joel and George having tramped off
to business and the very last crumb of the Macomber
breakfast having vanished, the Macomber children proceeded
to go through their usual morning routine. Lemuel,
who did chores for grumpy old Captain Elijah Samuels
at the latter’s big place on the depot road,
departed to rake hay and be sworn at. Sarah-Mary
went upstairs to make beds; when the bed-making was
over she and Edgar and Bemis would go to school.
Aldora and Joey, the two youngest, went outdoors to
play. And Captain Sears Kendrick, late master
of the ship Hawkeye, and before that of the
Fair Wind and the Far Seas and goodness
knows how many others, who ran away to ship as cabin
boy when he was thirteen, who fought the Malay pirates
when he was eighteen, and outwitted Semmes by outmaneuvering
the Alabama when he was twenty-eight, a man
once so strong and bronzed and confident, but now so
weak and shaken Captain Sears Kendrick rose
painfully and with effort from his chair, took his
cane from the corner and hobbled to the kitchen.
“Sarah,” he said, “I’m
goin’ to help you with those dishes this mornin’.”
“Sears,” said Mrs. Macomber,
taking the kettle of boiling dish-water from the top
of the stove, “you’ll do nothin’
of the kind. You’ll go outdoors and get
a little sunshine this lovely day. It’s
the first real good day you’ve had since you
got up from bed, and outdoors ’ll help you more
than anything else. Now you go!”
“But look here, Sarah, for Heaven’s sake ”
“Be still, Sears, and don’t
be foolish. There ain’t dishes enough to
worry about. I’ll have ’em done in
half a shake. Go outdoors, I tell you. But
don’t you walk on those legs of yours. You
Her brother Sarah Macomber
was a Kendrick before she married Joel smiled
slightly. “How do you want me to walk, Sarah,
on my hands?” he inquired. “Never
mind my legs. They’re better this mornin’
than they have been since that fat woman and a train
of cars fell on ’em.... Ah hum!”
with a change of tone, “it’s a pity they
didn’t fall on my neck and make a clean job
of it, isn’t it?”
“How can you talk so? And especially now,
when the doctor says if you take care of yourself,
you’ll ’most likely be as well as ever
in in a little while.”
“A little while! In a year
or two was what he said. In ten years was probably
what he meant, and you’ll notice he put in the
‘most likely’ even at that. If you
were to lash him in the fore-riggin’ and keep
him there till he told the truth, he’d probably
end by sayin’ that I would always be a good
for nothin’ hulk same as I am now.”
“Sears, don’t please
don’t. I hate to hear you speak so bitter.
It doesn’t sound like you.”
“It’s the way I feel,
Sarah. Haven’t I had enough to make me bitter?”
His sister shook her head. “Yes,
Sears,” she admitted, “I guess likely
you have, but I don’t know as that is a very
good excuse. Some of the rest of us,” with
a sigh, “haven’t found it real smooth sailin’
either; but ”
She did not finish the sentence, and
there was no need. He understood and turned quickly.
“I’m sorry, Sarah,”
he said. “I ought to be hove overboard and
towed astern. The Almighty knows you’ve
had more to put up with than ever I had and you don’t
spend your time growlin’ about it, either.
I declare I’m ashamed of myself, but but well,
you know how it is with me. I’ve never
been used to bein’ a loafer, spongin’ on
“Don’t, Sears. You
know you ain’t spongin’, as you call it.
You’ve paid your board ever since you’ve
“Yes, I have. But how much?
Next to half of nothin’ a week and you wouldn’t
have let me pay that if I hadn’t put my foot
down. Or said I was goin’ to try to put
it down,” he added with a grim smile. “You’re
a good woman, Sarah, a good woman, with more trials
than your share. And what makes me feel worst
of all, I do believe, is that I should be pitched
in on you to be the biggest trial of all.
Well, that part’s about over, anyhow. No
matter whether I can walk or not I shan’t stay
and sponge on you. If I can’t do anything
else I’ll hire a fish shanty and open clams
for a livin’.”
He smiled again and she smiled in
sympathy, but there were tears in her eyes. She
was seven years older than her brother, and he had
always been her pride. When she was a young woman,
helping with the housework in the old home there in
Bayport, before her father’s death and the sale
of that home, she had watched with immense gratification
his success in school. When he ran away to sea
she had defended him when others condemned. Later,
when tales of his “smartness,” as sailor
or mate, or by and by, a full rated captain, began
to drift back, she had gloried in them. He came
to see her semi-occasionally when his ship was in port,
and his yarns of foreign lands and strange people were,
to her, far more wonderful than anything she had ever
found in the few books which had come in her way.
Each present he brought her she had kept and cherished.
And there was never a trace of jealousy in her certain
knowledge that he had gone on growing while she had
stopped, that he was a strong, capable man of the
world the big world whereas she
was, and would always be, the wife and household drudge
of Joel Macomber.
Now, as she looked at him, pale, haggard
and leaning on his cane, stooping a little when he
had been so erect and sturdy, the pity which she had
felt for him ever since they brought him into her sitting-room
on the day of the railway accident became keener than
ever and with it came an additional flash of insight.
She realized more clearly than she had before that
it was not his bodily injuries which hurt most and
were the hardest to bear; it was his self-respect
and the pride which were wounded sorest. That
he he Sears Kendrick,
the independent autocrat of the quarter deck, should
be reduced to this! That it was wringing his
soul she knew. He had never complained except
to her, and even to her very, very seldom, but she
knew. And she ventured to ask the question she
had wanted to ask ever since he had sufficiently recovered
to listen to conversation.
“Sears,” she said “I
haven’t said a word before, and you needn’t
tell me now if you don’t want to it
isn’t any of my business but is it
true that you’ve lost a whole lot of money?
It isn’t true, is it?”
He had been standing by the open door,
looking out into the yard. Now he turned to look
“What isn’t true, Sarah?” he asked.
“That you’ve lost a lot
of money in in that that business
you went into. It isn’t true, is it, Sears?
Oh, I hope it isn’t! They say why,
some of ’em say you’ve lost all the money
you had put by. An awful sight of money, they
say. Sears, tell me it isn’t true please.”
He regarded her in silence for a moment.
Then he shook his head.
“Part of it isn’t true,
Sarah,” he answered, with a slight smile.
“I haven’t lost a big lot of money.”
“Oh, I’m so glad.
Now I can tell ’em a few things, I guess.”
“I wouldn’t tell ’em
too much, because the other part is true.
I have lost about all I had put by.”
And served me right, of course. You can’t
make a silk ear out of a sow’s purse, as old
Cap’n Sam Doane used to love to say. You
can’t, no matter how good a purse or ear it
is. I was a pretty good sea cap’n if I
do say it, but that wasn’t any reason why I should
have figured I was a good enough business man to back
as slippery an eel as Jim Carpenter in the ship chandlery
“But you ”
Mrs. Macomber hesitated to utter the disgraceful word,
“you didn’t fail up, did you, Sears?”
she faltered. “You know that’s what
they say you did.”
“Well, they say wrong.
Carpenter failed, I didn’t. I paid dollar
for dollar. That’s why I’ve got next
to no dollars now.”
“But you you’ve
got some, Sears. You must have,”
hopefully, “because you’ve been paying
me board. So you must have some left.”
The triumph in her face was pathetic.
He hated to disturb her faith.
“Yes,” he said dryly,
“I have some left. Maybe seven hundred dollars
or some such matter. If I had my legs left it
would be enough, or more than enough. I wouldn’t
ask odds of anybody if I was the way I was before
that train went off the track. I’d lost
every shot I had in the locker, but I’m not
very old yet some years to leeward of forty there
was more money to be had where that came from and
I meant to have it. And then well,
then this happened to me.”
“I know. And to think that
you was comin’ down here on purpose to see me
when it did happen. Seems almost as if I was to
“Nonsense! Nobody was to
blame but the engineer that wrecked the train and
the three hundred pound woman that fell on my legs.
And the engineer was killed, poor fellow, and the
woman was well, she carried her own punishment
with her, I guess likely. Anyhow, I should call
it a punishment if I had to carry it. There,
there, Sarah! Let’s talk about somethin’
else. You do your dishes and, long as you won’t
let me help you, I’ll hop-and-go-fetch-it out
to that settee in the front yard and look at the scenery.
Just think! I’ve been in Bayport almost
four months and haven’t been as far as that
gate yet except when they lugged me in
past it, of course. And I don’t recall much
“I guess not, you poor boy.
And I saw them bringin’ you in, all stretched
out, with your eyes shut, and as white as
Oh, my soul and body! I don’t want to think
about it, let alone talk about it.”
“Neither do I, Sarah, so we
won’t. Do you realize how little I know
of what’s been goin’ on in Bayport since
I was here last? And do you realize how long
it has been since I was here?”
“Why, yes, I do, Sears.
It’s been almost six years; it will be just six
on the tenth of next September.”
The speech was illuminating. He looked at her
“You do keep account of my goin’s
and comin’s, don’t you, old girl?”
he said. “Better than I do myself.”
“Oh, it means more to me than
it does to you. You live such a busy life, Sears,
all over the world, meetin’ everybody in all
kinds of places. For me, with nothin’ to
do but be stuck down here in Bayport well,
it’s different with me I have to
remember. Rememberin’ and lookin’
ahead is about all I have to keep me interested.”
He was silent for a moment. Then
he said: “It looks as if rememberin’
was all I will be likely to have. Think of it,
Sarah! Four months in Bayport and I haven’t
been to the post-office. That’ll stand as
a town record, I’ll bet.”
“And and you’ll
keep up your courage, Sears? You won’t let
yourself get blue and discouraged, for my sake if
He nodded. “I couldn’t,
Sarah,” he said earnestly. “With you
around I’d be ashamed to.”
She ran to help him down the step,
but he waved her away, and, leaning upon the cane
and clinging fast to the lattice with the other hand,
he managed to make the descent safely. Once on
the flat level of the walk he moved more rapidly and,
so it seemed to his sister, more easily than he had
since his accident. The forty odd feet of walk
he navigated in fair time and came to anchor, as he
would have expressed it, upon the battered old bench
by the Macomber gate. The gate, like the picket
fence, of which it was a part, needed paint and the
bench needed slats in its back. Almost anything
which Joel Macomber owned needed something and his
wife and family needed most of all.
An ancient cherry tree, its foliage
now thickly spotted with green fruit, for the month
was June, cast a shadow upon the occupant of the bench.
At his feet grew a bed of daffodils and jonquils which
Sarah Macomber had planted when she came, a hopeful
bride, to that house. Each year they sprouted
and bloomed and now, long after Sarah’s hopes
had ceased to sprout, they continued to flourish.
Beside the cherry tree grew a lilac bush. Beyond
the picket fence was the dusty sidewalk and beyond
that the dustier, rutted road. And beyond the
road and along it upon both sides were the houses
and barns and the few shops of Bayport village, Bayport
as it was, and as some of us remember it, in the early
In some respects it was much like
the Bayport of to-day. The houses themselves
have changed but little. Then, as now, they were
trim and white and green-shuttered. Then, as
now, the roses climbed upon their lattices and the
silver-leaf poplars and elms and mulberry trees waved
above them. But the fences which enclosed their
trim lawns and yards have disappeared, and the hitching
posts and carriage blocks by their front gates have
gone also. Gone, too, are the horses and buggies
and carryalls which used to stand by these gates or
within those barns. They are gone, just as the
ruts and dust of the roads have vanished. When
Mrs. Captain Hammond, of the lower road, used to call
upon Mrs. Ryder at West Bayport, she was wont to be
driven to her destination in the intensely respectable
Hammond buggy drawn by the equally respectable Hammond
horse and piloted by the even more respectable not
to say venerable Hammond coachman, who
was also gardener and “hired man.”
And they made the little journey in the very respectable
time of thirty-five minutes. Now when Mrs. Captain
Hammond’s granddaughter, who winters in Boston
but summers at the old home, wishes to go to West Bayport
she skims over the hard, oiled macadam in her five
thousand dollar runabout and she finishes the skimming
in eight minutes or less.
And although the dwellings along the
Bayport roads are much as they were that morning when
Captain Sears Kendrick sat upon the bench in the Macomber
yard and gazed gloomily at the section of road which
lay between the Macomber gate and the curve beyond
the Orthodox meeting-house although the
houses were much the same in external appearance,
those who occupy them at the present day are vastly
different from those who owned and lived in them then.
Here is the greatest change which time has brought
to old Bayport. Now those houses the
majority of them are open only in summer;
then they were open all the year. They who come
to them now regard them as playthings, good-time centers
for twelve or fourteen weeks. Then they were the
homes of men and women who were proud of them, loved
them, meant to live in them while on land as
long as life was theirs; to die in them if fortunate
enough to be found by death while ashore; and at last
to be buried near them, under the pines of the Bayport
cemetery. Now these homes are used by business
men or lawyers or doctors, whose real homes are in
Boston, New York, Chicago, or other cities. Then
practically every house was owned or occupied either
by a sea captain, active or retired, or by a captain’s
widow or near relative.
For example, as Captain Kendrick sat
in his brother-in-law’s yard on that June morning
of that year in the early ’70’s, within
his sight, that is within the half mile from curve
to curve of the lower road, were no less than nine
houses in which dwelt or had dwelt men
who gained a living upon a vessel’s quarter
deck. Directly across the road was the large,
cupola-crowned house of Captain Solomon Snow.
Captain Sol was at present somewhere between Surinam
and New York, bound home. His wife was with him,
so was his youngest child. The older children
were at home, in the big house; their aunt, Captain
Sol’s sister, herself a captain’s widow,
was with them.
Next to Captain Solomon’s was
the Crowell place. Captain Bethuel Crowell was
in Hong Kong, but, so his wife reported at sewing circle,
had expected to sail from there “any day about
now” bound for Melbourne. Next to Captain
Bethuel lived Mrs. Patience Foster, called “Mary
Pashy” by the townspeople to distinguish her
from another Mary Foster in East Bayport. Her
husband had been drowned at sea, or at least so it
was supposed. His ship left Philadelphia eight
years before and had never been spoken or heard from
since that time. Next to Mary-Pashy’s was
the imposing, if ugly, residence of Captain Elkanah
Wingate. Captain Elkanah was retired, wealthy,
a member of the school-committee, a selectman, an
aristocrat and an autocrat. And beyond Captain
Elkanah lived Captain Godfrey Peasley who
was not quite of the aristocracy as he commanded a
schooner instead of a square-rigger, and beyond him
Mrs. Tabitha Crosby, whose husband had died of yellow
fever while aboard his ship in New Orleans; and beyond
Mrs. Crosby’s was well, the next building
was the Orthodox meeting-house, where the Reverend
David Dishup preached. Nowadays people call it
the Congregationalist church. On the same side
of the road as the Macomber cottage were the homes
of Captain Sylvanus Baker and Captain Noah Baker and
of Captain Orrin Eldridge.
Bayport, in that day, was not only
by the sea, it was of the sea. The sea winds
blew over it, the sea air smelled salty in its highways
and byways, its male citizens most of them walked
with a sea roll, and upon the tables and whatnots
of their closed and shuttered “front parlors”
or in their cupboards or closets were laquered cabinets,
and whales’ teeth, and alabaster images, and
carved chessmen and curious shells and scented fans
and heaven knows what, brought from heaven knows where,
but all brought in sailing ships over one or more of
the seas of the world. The average better class
house in Bayport was an odd combination of home and
museum, the rear two-thirds the home section and the
remaining third, that nearest the road, the museum.
Bayport front parlors looked like museums, and generally
smelled like them.
To a stranger from, let us say, the
middle west, the village then must have seemed a queer
little community dozing upon its rolling hills and
by its white beaches, a community where the women had,
most of them, traveled far and seen many strange things
and places, but who seldom talked of them, preferring
to chat concerning the minister’s wife’s
new bonnet; and whose men folk, appearing at long
intervals from remote parts of the world, spoke of
the port side of a cow and compared the three-sided
clock tower of the new town hall with the peak of Teneriffe
on a foggy morning.
All this, odd as it may have seemed
to visitors from inland, were but matters of course
to Sears Kendrick. To him there was nothing strange
in the deep sea atmosphere of his native town.
It had been there ever since he knew it, he fondly
imagined being as poor a prophet as most
of us that it would always be. And,
as he sat there in the Macomber yard, his thoughts
were busy, not with Bayport’s past or future,
but with his own, and neither retrospect nor forecast
was cheerful. He could see little behind him
except the mistakes he had made, and before him not
even the opportunity to make more.
Overhead, amid the cherry branches,
the bees buzzed and the robins chirped. From
the kitchen window came the click of dishes as Mrs.
Macomber washed and wiped them. Around the curve
of the road by the meeting-house came Dr. Sheldon’s
old horse, drawing Dr. Sheldon’s antiquated
chaise, with the doctor himself leaning back comfortably
upon its worn cushions. Captain Kendrick, not
being in the mood for a chat just then even with as
good a friend as his physician, made no move, and
the old chaise and its occupant passed by and disappeared
around the next curve. Sarah-Mary and Edgar and
Bemis noisily trooped out of the house and started
for school. Edgar was enthusiastically carolling
a ditty which was then popular among Bayport juvenility.
It was reminiscent of a recent presidential campaign.
“Grant and Greely were
fightin’ for flies,
Grant gave Greely a pair of
black eyes ”
The children, like Doctor Sheldon
and the chaise, passed out of sight around the bend
of the road. Edgar’s voice, more or less
tunefully, drifted back:
“Grant said, ‘Do
you want any more?’
Greely said, ‘No, for
my eyes are too sore.’”
Sears Kendrick crossed his knees and
changed position upon the bench. Obviously he
could not hope to go to sea again for months at the
very earliest. Obviously he could not live during
those months at his sister’s. She would
be only too delighted to have him do so, but on that
point his mind was made up. And, quite as obviously,
he could not long exist, and pay an adequate price
for the privilege of existing, with the small sum
which was left after his disastrous voyage upon the
sea of business. His immediate problems then
were two: First, to find a boarding place which
was very, very cheap. Second, if possible, to
find a means of earning a little money. The first
of these he might, perhaps, solve after a fashion,
but the second and he a cripple! He
Then he gradually became aware of
a new set of sounds, sounds approaching along the
road from the direction in which the children and
the doctor’s equipage had disappeared. The
sounds, at first rather confused, gradually separated
themselves into two varieties, one the sharp, irregular
rattle of a springless cart, the second a hoarse unmusical
voice which, like Edgar’s, was raised in song.
But in this case the rattle of the cart caused the
song to be broken unexpectedly into jerky spasms,
so to speak. Nevertheless, the singer kept manfully
at his task.
“Now the Dreadnought’s
a-bowlin’ (Bump! Rattle)
the wild Irish sea
Where the pass (Bump!)
engers are merry
hearts full of glee,
While the sailors like lions
the matter with ye) walk the decks to and fro,
She’s the Liverpool
packet (Bump! Bang! Crack!)
Lord, let her go!”
Sears Kendrick sat upright on the
settee. Of course he recognized the song, every
man who had ever sailed salt water knew the old Dreadnought
chantey, but much more than that, he believed he recognized
the voice of the singer. Leaning forward, he watched
for the latter to appear.
Then, around the clump of lilacs which
leaned over Captain Sol Snow’s fence at the
corner, came an old white horse drawing an old “truck-wagon,”
the wagon painted, as all Cape Cod truck-wagons then
were and are yet, a bright blue; and upon the high
seat of the wagon sat a chunky figure, a figure which
rocked back and forth and sang:
“Now the Dreadnought’s
a sailin’ the (Bang! Bump!)
While the (Thump!
Bump!) dark heavy seas roll
her black side,
With the sails neatly spread
the red cross to show,
She’s the Liverpool
packet; Good Lord, let ”
Captain Kendrick interrupted here.
“Ahoy, the Dreadnought!” he hailed.
“Good Lord, let ’er go!”
roared the man on the seat of the truck-wagon, finishing
the stanza of his chantey. Then he added “Whoa!”
in a mighty bellow. The white horse stopped in
his tracks, as if he had one ear tipped backward awaiting
the invitation. His driver leaned down and peered
into the shadow of the lilac bush.
“Who ?” he began.
“Eh? What? Limpin’, creepin’,
crawlin’, jumpin’ Moses and the prophets!
It ain’t Cap’n Sears Kendrick, is it?
It is, by Henry! Well, well, well, WELL,
Each succeeding “well”
was louder and more emphatic than its predecessor.
They were uttered as the speaker rolled, rather than
climbed, down from the high seat. Alighting upon
a pair of enormous feet shod in heavy rubber boots,
the tops of which were turned down, he thumped up
the little slope from the road to the sidewalk.
Then, thrusting over the fence pickets a red and hairy
hand, the size of which corresponded to that of the
feet, he roared another string of delighted exclamations.
“Cap’n Sears Kendrick,
on deck and all taut again! Well, by the jumpin’,
creepin’! If this ain’t Cap’n
Sears, sir, how be you?”
His broad-brimmed, battered straw
hat had fallen off in his descent from the wagon seat,
uncovering a partially bald head and a round, extremely
red face, two-thirds of which was hidden by a tremendously
thick and bristly tangle of short gray whiskers.
The whiskers were now bisected by a broad grin, a
grin so broad and so ecstatic that its wrinkles extended
to the bulbous nose and the apple cheeks above.
“Cap’n Sears, sir,”
repeated the driver of the truck-wagon, “I’m
proud to see you on deck again, sir. Darned if
The captain leaned forward and shook
the big red hand extended across the fence pickets.
“Judah Cahoon, you old salt
herrín’,” he cried heartily, “I’m
just as glad to see you! But what in the
world are you doin’ here in Bayport?”