"MAKING IT ALL RIGHT."
WE were not likely to forget that the wife of Marsh Yates gave us shelter on the first night we spent at the South Shore this season. As we occupied the only bed in the house, I wondered in what way our entertainers passed the dark hours. The cracks opening from our door to the floor below let up the sound of a great deal of snoring, so that my conscience did not afflict me as it might otherwise have done. It seemed to me in the middle of the night that some one said in a dream:--
"You'll have ter git up. Git up, I tell you!"
I tried to rouse myself. There was a glimmer of daylight filling the outside fog. Those words about getting up sounded again from the foot of the stairs which led into this chamber where we slept. And now the head of Maria Jane Yates appeared in the aperture left in the Door boards that the stairs might come through.
"The man wants ter git into his barn," said Maria Jane impressively.
"Tell him to go into his barn," I said with equal impressiveness, but vaguely, as one who still half sleeps.
"You'll have ter git yourself awake and dress, for he's waitin' now," announced the voice. "I'd jest as lieves go, so fur's I'm concerned," it added, "ef you say so."
How dreadful it is to waken in the midst of the first sound sleep you have had all the night ! I could not imagine what all this talk was about, but I made a mighty effort and got up. I then heard the mumble of a man's voice--not Marsh's--below, and thought I heard the word "dorg" pronounced with an unpleasant emphasis. Maria Jane nodded at me.
"The dorg, ye know," she said. "Mr. Morse could n't git into his barn to feed his calf, nor nothin', 'cause your dorg is there. He says it's hendered him fifty cents' wuth a'ready, for he meant to have started early for the salt hay he bought at the harbor."
Now I was awake. It did not seem two minutes until I was walking over the ridge with Mr. Morse, and striving to keep up with his enormous strides. The fog was so thick I could barely see my companion, and the air was so salt I could taste it on my lips. The tide was going out, I knew by the long-drawn, sucking gurgles it made among the loose stones at my left, where Stony Beach curved its little stretch between its rocky boundaries. In such a mist as this one knew very little about the time of sun-rising. I felt that I was paying too dear for having a dog to protect our property.
"Thought you was goin' ter git yer tent up and git settled yisterd'y," said Mr. Morse
over his shoulder at me, as I scrambled breathless just at his heels.
"So I thought; we engaged Mr. Yates to put it up," I replied, gasping.
"I could have told ye better 'n that," said Mr. Morse, as people always say when it is too late. He laughed hoarsely. "Guess he did n't have time, did he?" Then he laughed again. "I c'n tell ye one thing," he said, suddenly facing round on me, the mist making him look like a giant: "you never 'll git that tent up ef you wait for Marsh Yates to do it." Then he turned, and threw the following words at me from his shoulder: "'N' I don't see's I c'n have that dorg on my premises, a-guardin' of other folks' property, much longer. It don't make a man feel pleased ter go out ter his own barn and find a dog's big as an ox set'n' on his tail an' grinnin' at ye, so' s't ye feel obliged to run if ye vally your life. 'N' I ain't prepared ter die yet,--not by means of a dorg in my own barn."
I could not but agree with these sentiments. I told Mr. Morse, perhaps rather more profusely than was necessary, that I agreed with him, and that I should try and make it all right with him. Let me say here that you are always committing yourself rashly when you say to a countryman, whether of the shore or inland, that you ''will make it all right with him.'' He immediately thinks you have plenty of money and are unsophisticated, and if he has previously had it in his mind that one dollar would make it right with him, when he hears you make that remark, he directly decides to charge two dollars. When our goods were finally removed from Mr. Morse's barn, we asked him what we owed him.
He looked reflectively off at the ocean in the direction of Cape Ann. I have noticed that all the men who live permanently on this shore have this same appearance of possessing reflective powers. That it is only an appearance I am convinced, for to reflect in reality one must first have a mind ; and the masculine mind hereabouts seems to have been nearly all absorbed in a dull planning as to how a living can be got without working. A certain sharpening of intellects has taken place since there has been somewhat of an influx of summer visitors, - not as regards work, but as regards what is popularly known as ''skinning the visitors.'' The skinning goes through everything, from the price of a lobster or a dozen perch to rowing you for an hour in a leaky boat, wherein you have to sit with your skirts tucked up tightly about your ankles, -if you are so unfortunate as to be a woman and wear skirts, -and where you are not unfrequently asked ''to jest take that dipper and bail her out a little, won't ye?'' You gladly bail her out, because you don't want to sit with your feet several inches deep in salt water. But when you land, scrambling out as best you can on the shallow beach, and try to make it right with your boatman, you do feel as if you had not had your money's worth. It was experiences like these which led us to set up a boat on Salt Pond, a sheet of water which lay back of the beach where we were, between our beach and the main-land.
But I must not anticipate my story, and set up a boat before we have set up our tent.
When Mr. Morse had contemplated the blue line of the North Shore for a sufficient length of time, after my question as to my indebtedness, he said that he guessed he should charge about seventy-five cents for storage, and he guessed that the damage to his peace of mind by havin' that dorg a keepin' of him on tenter-hooks in the way he had would be figgered at about a dollar and a half; and he would n't have no dorg that would grin in that way in his barn agin for twice that money. 'T wa'n't no object.
I knew exactly how our big mastiff Max would' as Mr. Morse graphically expressed it, sit on his tail and grin at any one whom he thought had intrusive intentions. I would be willing to pay a good many more dollars rather than that Max should give up that expression of countenance when he deemed that he had occasion to use it.
This settlement with Mr. Morse was effected after we had reached the barn, and Max, growing amiable, had consented, at my request, to the owner's entrance. I implored Mr. Morse to think of some one who would pitch our tent for us; I entreated him to do it himself, and go after his hay to-morrow. No; he was immovable. He said that kind of "ma'sh hay was a kind he'd ben wantin' too long to resk rosin' it now."
He actually hurried to get away from my importunities. He whipped his old horse down the hill, and at the foot of it he pulled up, and shouted back for me "to git Miss Yates to go over the pond and fetch a man from the road."
We were fast learning that Maria Jane was the only person with a particle of energy. When I returned to the Yates house I discovered that Maria had been down to Marsh's dory, and found that he had brought in three lobsters from the pots the night before, but had not conveyed them any farther. They had twisted about all night, had locked themselves firmly and viciously together, and were at present a string of lobster mixed with rope, which Maria plunged into the big kettle, under which a fire was now burning.
''I guess that'll unclinch um,'' she said, and added, ''You c'n have fresh b'iled lobster for breakfast."
We all breakfasted much as we had supped. Marsh had gone out perching with a neighbor. He had left word for us that we must n't worry; he guessed he should be back plenty of time to see about that tent. When I heard that I felt hysterical. It seemed to me hysterics were justifiable, if not useful. Maria Jane raised herself from her lobster boiler, put her hands on her hips and looked so full of energy that Carlos and I revived by merely gazing at her.
''Of course yo' don't take no stock in Marsh's comin' back to do anything, do ye?"
No, we did not.
''I'll tell ye what I'll do,'' she said briskly: ''ef you'll help me haul the dory across, I'll go over to the road, and if I don't git a man my name ain't Maria Jane Yates!''
She was like a general inspiring fainting soldiers. We three went down to the dory. Its small anchor was stuck into the sand to hold it. She flung the anchor in, and then pulled by the rope, while we pushed from behind. It is not enjoyable to do this kind of work, particularly when you step into petticoats often and the ridge is very steep. I had no idea a dory could be so heavy. The strip of land which lies between the sea and the pond is at this place perhaps an eighth of a mile wide. Just at the most difficult part, as we were toiling and straining our utmost' I heard a voice behind us say,--
''I do declare, that ain't women's work!''
It was Cap'n Asel. He had had his breakfast long ago,--it must be now as late as half past five, -and was out to see if he could pick up any news.
''If 't was men's work I s'pose they 'd do it,'' said Maria Jane. With one great heave we got the boat over the ridge, and after that it was comparatively easy work. In ten minutes more Mrs. Yates was standing upright in the dory, and sculling swiftly over the smooth pond.
Cap'n Asel lingered near us, supporting himself comfortably on his crutches He was very amiable indeed, but when he wondered in a musing way where Marsh's wife was going and what for, we did not reply. He did find out where we passed the night, for he asked point blank. He said ''he did n't know as the Yateses was fixed so 's they could 'commodate lodgers. No bedstids, ye know, nor nuthin', fur's he knew."
Then he winked again, as he had done when I first saw him. His winks had a dreadful, paralyzing effect upon me, for the reason, I think, that of all the faces I have ever seen, his face looked the most unlikely to wink. It was as utterly confounding as if the mummy of one of the Pharaohs had done such a thing. I was afraid it would be our lot to see Cap'n Asel a good deal. I early made the resolution that I would not gratify his curiosity in the slightest degree. There are some people who, the moment they ask you a question, inspire you with a strong desire not to answer it. Cap'n Asel had this effect upon me. I would not have told him even what I thought concerning the weather. His sole occupation was to hobble about the shore and find out every item about everybody. I did not, until I knew him, fully understand what the word "inquisitive" means.
I was sure by his manner--one could tell nothing by his face--that he meant to stay with us until Mrs. Yates came back, so that he might possibly learn why she had gone across Salt Pond.
CHAPTER III - THE TENT GOES UP
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