WE'd rather not take that bill, if you please,” said the clerk, handing me back the twenty-dollar note I had given him. “ It may be all right, but the Detector says there are counterfeits on that issue. The bank will open in half an hour, and they will know there. If it is good, it will be all the same to you ; and if it is bad, why, as you are a stranger on the island, you might be gone before we could get it back to you.”
“Very well,” said I, “I’ll leave the things and call for them when the bank opens and I get my bill changed.”
This conversation took place in a small shop in tire town of Nantucket, and “the things” were some South Sea carvings, whale’s teeth with sailor drawings on them, and the like, which I had been buying. The bill was the only bill I had in my possession, and I had no doubt of its goodness, supposing that I could tell just where it came from. I did not have so many twenties in my hands then as to be at any loss as to where I had taken them.
So I strolled down the sandy Main Street and out on the silent and grassgrown wharf, lined with decaying warehouses, looked at the solitary New York yacht lying at anchor in trim beauty, and then strolled up again, just as the town clock on the South Church tower was striking nine, so as to enter punctually the bank, the only bank which the island now maintains. I handed the bill to the cashier and asked for change. He took it, smoothed it professionally with a wave of his hand, and was about to drop it in the drawer, when something in it caught his eye. He held it up to tiie light, eyed me, eyed the bill again, and then, with a shake of the head, pushed it back over the counter, “ Bad,” said he, laconically.
“Bad?” replied I, interrogatively.
“Counterfeit,” he rejoined ; and then seeing by my blank look that I was really surprised, lie kindly pointed out the marks by which to detect the cheat. I looked and listened, but was not much the wiser, for, to tell the truth, another train of thought was at work in my mind. What was I to do ?
This was the situation which, as I pocketed the bill and walked away toward the Ocean House, came clearly before me. I was then a junior clerk in a Boston house, on a limited salary, and with but a trifle of income from other sources. I was an orphan, and had not many acquaintances and no relations near at hand. I had come to Nantucket on a fortnight’s leave, and my time would be up the next day.
Now having been always careful about money matters, and feeling a horror of debt not always shared by young clerks at the age of nineteen, when I left home I had taken with me just the little balance I had saved up for my summer vacation, and had been enjoying a well-earned leisure in various cheap and innocent dissipations. I had been sailing, fishing, and bathing, had driven out to “ Sconset ” and the South Shore, had passed two rainy days in the alcoves of the Athenæum, and had congratulated myselt that I was keeping well within bounds. This twenty I had retained till the last. The night previous I had settled my hotel bill, expecting to leave that very morning in the boat, but she had started at six to go to a wreck, and her passengers had to choose between some extra hours of sailing or waiting over. I preferred the latter, especially as I could so well afford it, for even then I should get home with several dollars in my pocket. Now, instead of the comfortable capitalist I seemed, I was a wretched bankrupt. I went up to my room, pulled out my pocket memorandum of expenses, laid the unlucky bill upon the table, and sat down to think where I could have got it. There was just a chance that it might have been taken on the island ; only I knew it was n't. I remembered but too well that I had kept it in an inner pocket of my porte monnaie, resolved to go home as soon as it became necessary to break it. But where could I have got it? My money was always paid me by our book-keeper, and he would have almost as soon have taken the safe-key to wind up his watch with as a doubtful note.
So I took up the bill and stared at it, as people do, blankly trying to waken a dormant memory. Then it all came to me.
The day before I left home I had been sent up State Street to make a deposit. Before I started, seeing that the sum was in 10’S and 20’s, and as my own porte monnaie was unpleasantly stuffed with 1’s which I had been saving up against vacation-time, I had taken a 20 from the bank-book and put my own bills in its place.
How did I happen to have so many 1’s ? Young men, hope of the future commercial circles of the country, attend ! Every week I paid my board bill, which was nine dollars (before the war, you know), and I earned every week fifteen, which I received Saturday night, in a 5 and a 10. The 5 went for various current expenses, the 10 went to my landlady, the 1 I received in change was sacredly laid by for vacation. Then I had my dividend which came in July untouched, and was free to go where I liked. This year, too, I had earned something extra by doing other fellows’ work for them, so that I don’t think an easier-minded guest had been at the Ocean House that summer. I had chosen Nantucket as a place where I could do as I wanted to, where I need not bargain and plan for cheapness, and should not be cheated. I had found just what I wanted ; I had had the best boatman, good teams, and no young gentleman of great expectations could have got more enjoyment out of his money than I out of mine. It had been a splendid financial success up to this last disagreeable episode.
But what was to be done now ? There would be another day’s board at the Ocean House ; there was the fare to Boston ; things ordered at the “ Curiosity Shop,” which I felt I ought to take, — and a counterfeit bill ! Whether this bill was my loss or not, I could not quite tell.
I inclined to think that Penrose, our book-keeper, would put it on to me, saying that if I had deposited the bills I was sent with, it would have been detected at the counter of the bank.
However, that was not the question. I could stand the loss of the 20, — though before the war, to a junior clerk of nineteen, twenty dollars was not a trifle, — but how to get home ! True, I could walk on board the boat, but they might refuse to let me land at Hyannis, and the railroad conductor would assuredly put me off before I got even to Sandwich ; so what better should I be then ? Suppose I wrote to Boston, whom could I write to ? I did not know a soul to whom I dared apply. Beside that, writing would do no good, for I must leave the island the next day. Mr. Ellis, the second partner in our house, was to sail for Europe on Saturday. I had been specially charged before I could get my leave, that Friday night at eight o’clock I was to be at his house to take charge of some papers of importance for the firm. I was sure that my situation would be gone if I failed.
Something must be done. I went down stairs and asked for the landlord. He had gone to New Bedford, and would not be back till next day. I took the clerk into my confidence, and tried to get a loan of him. He had no money of his own, and could not, in the absence of his “ boss,” take the funds of the hotel. Besides, he did not think my little valise adequate security. Neither did I, for that matter. There was no telegraph nearer than the mainland.
I went back to my room, feeling desperate, and all the while a craving propensity to strike out into the most expensive things I could do. If there had been a gaming-table on the island, I do believe (though I never went near anything of the kind in my life) I should have gone to it.
I drew out my watch to see what the hour was, and the thought of pawning it struck me. But Nantucket does not possess a “ loan office.” I made careful inquiry, but nothing of the sort was known. However, I went to a watchmaker’s and laid my modest, but serviceable silver timepiece before him. He quietly declined to consider the question.
“ Does thee know,” he said (he was a Quaker), “ that I have in that chist more ’n a dozen of the best London chronometers and I can’t sell one of them for what it’s worth ? I should like to help thee, especially as thee wants to be honest and not put off bad money, but I do not see my way clear to do so.”
“ But,” said I, “ I am not going to leave the watch long. I shall send for it in a week, perhaps in less time.”
“So thee says, and no doubt thee thinks so, but thee will be off the island, and then how can I get at thee ? ”
“ Yes, but you can tell whether that watch is worth more than twice twenty dollars or not.” (It cost sixty.) “ If it is, can’t you see that it is my interest to redeem it ? ”
“ Well, thee knows best about that, but it would n’t be worth that to me, for I might not sell it under a year, and thee ’ll be off the island, where I can’t get at thee.”
This was the key to the whole matter. The ideas of the old gentleman were of a date when the whaling business was good, and when his sailor customers were in the habit of disappearing at “ Turkeywonner,” “ Hilo,” “ Sidney,” and other Pacific ports, and also of reappearing alter many days to claim long-forgotten deposits. Time being a commodity of which there was a superabundance in Nantucket, the market was not brisk. Time was not money.
I went home to dinner. There is that comfort in a hotel, that the vacuus viator can feed equally well with King Crœsus until the landlord says, “ Go.” At the table I took my accustomed seat, opposite Miss Minnie P-We had made acquaintance but a fortnight before, through her brother Fred, whom I had “ rescued from a watery grave ” ; I mean, pulled into the boat from which he had tumbled overboard on a bluefishing excursion. She was somewhat older than I, and that did not interfere with our rapidly getting acquainted.
She expressed great pleasure at finding me still on the island, and that we should be fellow-travellers the next day. “ In fact, Mr. Woodbridge, I think, if I may take so great a liberty, I will pul myself under your care, and let Fred stay another week.” I acquiesced, though sorely doubtful whether I should have the pleasure. However, thought I, she will hand me her purse to get the tickets and things, and then I can pay for two, and return it when I get to Boston. I blushed as I thought it, but I would have given much for the privilege of waiting on Miss P-, a noted Boston beauty ; and, moreover, I was madly in love with her, of course, though very much in doubt whether it would be prudent to tell her so. Then she went on : “ I
have never been to the South Shore in all the three weeks’ stay I have made.” My impulse was, of course, to invite her to drive thither with me ; but that bill in my pocket ! She went on in the most aggravating way, “ After yesterday’s blow, they say the surf will be splendid, the finest this season.” I was on the point of proposing that we should walk there, when she said,
“ Would it be too great a favor, if you are not otherwise engaged, for you to drive me out there ? Fred has gone shark-fishing, but he promised to order a buggy before he left.”
Of course I joyfully accepted, and I inwardly blushed as I thought what might not turn up. If, after all, I should find favor in the eyes of the daughter of a millionnaire, all would be well; and if not, let me have what comfort I can. They let the fellows that are to be hanged call for what they like for their last breakfast, I believe ! So I thought; and when Miss P-went up to put on her things, I went to the front of the Ocean House to await the team. It came, but the stable help in charge seemed to have something on his mind. He looked uneasy, and then said, as I approached to look at the horse and inspect the harness, “Who shall this be put down to ? Mr. Pwas over this morning and paid his bill, and said he was going off the island to - morrow, and did n't say nothing about his sister’s having any team. She sent over about an hour ago, an’ the boss says he s’poses it’s all right, but wimmen is forgetful, and I must n’t let the team go without knowing who was to have it.” I gave my name ; but my dealings having been with the other stable, it made less impression than it should have done. “ Perhaps,”said he, “ you would n’t mind settling now in advance ; ’n fact, it’s charged to me anyhow ; and for the afternoon it ’ll be three dollars. And then you can stay at the Shore’s long’s you like.”
I saw Miss P-at the top of the stairs, and felt I must act quickly. “ Can you change this ? ” said I, taking out the twenty. “No, I see you can't. Very well, don’t keep the lady waiting, but they ’ll pay you at the office.” And, before he had time to accept the situation, ! had put Miss P——into the buggy and was driving away.
It is not exciting to drive in Nantucket unless over the trotting-course. The roads are a trifle sandy and are deeply rutted, so that your horse travels in a groove, and your wheels do the same. Dexter himself could hardly run away, and you are as fast tied to the track as if in a city street-car.
But once out on the broad, breezy downs, and it is very enjoyable. The air is fragrant with the warm and aromatic smell of the bayberry-bushes and the balsamic breath of the pine-trees, the tallest of which tower full seven feet in the air. Behind is the clean quiet town, and before a dark blue line on which here and there glitters the sunshine, while a white flash of surf springs up ever and anon above the low sand-drifts on which grow the sparse tufts of beach-grass.
Nobody can long feel blue on those plains of Nantucket ; beside that, I had a project which was to put me all right.
So I chatted with Miss Minnie, and never had enjoyed myself so much. It might have been fancy, but I thought she was a little distrait. Could it be that I had made an impression ? If so all will he well, thought I ; and then I wished the Shore thirty miles off, instead of three. As it was, we reached the end of our drive before I felt quite certain enough to commit myself. It would be awkward to be refused and have to drive her home afterward.
A solitary stroll on the beach might — but it was not solitary. There was some one there. A man, a wretch with a long-handled white umbrella, like a huge mushroom, stuck in the sand, and under it he was sitting, sketching.
A little way from where my horse was to be tied was his horse and buggy. Somehow, he seemed to expect Miss P——, for he rose up and came to meet her as soon as I had helped her to alight ; and before I could secure my steed, Miss P—— and the stranger seemed to have got wondrously well acquainted. I did not remember to have seen him on the island, and he certainly did not come in the boat while I was there, for the event of the day was to see the passengers land ; and beside that, where would he go but to the Ocean House ?
Miss Minnie introduced me to her friend as I came up to them. It was Mr. C——, the artist. He was handsome. there was no denying that, with his broad wideawake and velvet coat and silky mustache ; but I should have much preferred to see his beauty in the distance, say picturesquely half a mile off; but he was so pleasant and gentlemanly, that I could n’t quarrel with him.
Presently Miss P—— begged him to go on with his work ; and then she said, as she looked over his shoulder, that he ought to put in a figure or two; and how it came about I don’t know, but I found myself standing at the edge of the surf (in imminent peril of wet feet) and pretending to throw a bluefish-line into the breakers.
It was hardly a consolation to think of being part of a famous picture, when that required one to stand with one’s back to all that was of immediate interest. But it was much worse to be roused by a shout from the wretch, and to see my own horse walking leisurely away toward the town. I know I fastened him securely.
I hurried up the beach, and the ruffian met me with a look of pretended sympathy on his features.
“ This is too bad,” he said. “ I am afraid you will have to leave Miss P--to my care. I will stay with her while you bring your horse back. If you should n’t overtake him,” added the ogre, “ I will see that she gets home ; but really I can’t leave just yet, I have got such a splendid chance which I have been waiting for all summer; such a surf and such a light on it! ”
It did not occur to me then, though it did afterward, that the miscreant might have offered me his team. Instead of that he hurried me off, bidding me run, which I did. So did my horse, just quickening his pace till he got far enough away to graze, and then starting on as I got near him. I had to foot it the whole way to town. The beast went safely enough till he reached the stable ; but there he pushed right into it, and, catching the buggy against the lintel, smashed the top completely. Twenty dollars would not make good the damage, the stable-folks said. I told them to send up to the hotel at half past nine and get their pay, after the loss had been properly estimated.
One thing seemed a little odd. I had unbuckled the check-rein to use as a hitching - strap. It was found buckled all right, but not checked, which makes me think that the horse had learned to unharness himself. They are knowing animals, the Nantucket horses.
Then I went to the clerk of the hotel. I told him I thought I would give a public reading that evening. Could I have the use of the diningroom ? I would put the tickets at twenty-five cents, and at that rate would probably secure an audience. I had heard that one of the Harvard fellows had done the same thing in one of the rural districts, and netted one hundred dollars. The clerk said the dining-room could not well be spared and would not hold enough, but the Athenæum Hall was the place where such tilings usually were given. Would he engage it for me ? He would send and get it right away, and would send the town-crier to announce the reading, as there was not time to print bills, and that was the usual custom, moreover.
Then I went to my room to prepare a programme. It did not seem ten minutes before I heard the voice of the herald proclaiming in vocal small caps that “ THERE WILL, BE A DRA-MATIC READING THIS EVENING AT ATH-ENÆ-UM HALL. DOORS OPEN AT SEVEN P’FORMANCE T’ C’MENCE ’T EIGHT O’CLOCK. ’DMITTANCE TWENTY-FIVE CENTS. Then the ding ding of his bell died away up one street and was heard coming down the next. It was evident the town would be thoroughly canvassed. Could I read? Well, I had tried it in private circles. Militavi non sine gloria, and at the Public Latin School where I graduated had won the Hancock medal. The first thing was to get books. I asked the clerk, but he was a book-keeper, not a booklender. However, he thought I might obtain the loan at the Athenæum, on depositing their valuation. As I only wanted them to go from the libraryroom to the hall up stairs I ventured on this, depositing with a bold front but beating heart my twenty-dollar bill, and receiving a Shakespeare, a Byron, and three volumes of Mrs. Browning. Also a copy of Handy Andy. This last, being doubtful of my skill in rendering the Irish tongue, I took to my room, unluckily. The others I thought I could manage at sight, especially as I meant to keep to the pieces I knew by heart, and wanted the books more for form than for use. By this time the tea-gong sounded, and I went to the table with an anxious breast and a sense of being the observed of all observers. Miss Pwas already there, but in my seat was the fiend, I mean the artist, in human shape. I expected to see Miss Minnie look embarrassed, but she only looked radiantly happy, and smiled sweetly upon me as I passed by to take my place at the foot of the table.
I could not eat ; in fact, I had a doubt whether it would be well to attempt it before a public reading ; so after bearing in silent torture the spectacle of the vampire helping Miss P-to bluefish and blackberries, I retired to dress. That operation was limited to the putting on of a cloth coat in place of a tweed, my last clean collar, and taking my last ditto handkerchief, and at seven I started for the hall.
The streets were not inconveniently thronged, but “ it is early yet,” I said, mentally. I had left Handy Andy in my room, not feeling quite up to the comic, but in a mood to which I was sure Othello would come in great force. I found the town-crier, who was also to be the money-taker and stage-manager, at the door, but no one else. He suggested that, as it was still daylight, it was n’t worth while to light up yet, to which I agreed, and retired to the dressing-room with my volumes, a solitary candle, and a glass of water. I shut the door, so as not to be disturbed by the noise of the assembling throngs, and gave myself up to study. I had heroically determined not to look at my watch, lest I should get nervous, and when eight o’clock struck from the South Church tower, I confess I started with surprise. Seizing my books and giving myself no time for stage fright, I walked dignifiedly on to the platform, found my first place, and raised my eyes to survey my audience. There were two people in the hall, a ghoul and his victim, I mean the artist and Miss P——. The crier, that is, the ticket-taker, stood by the entrance, his hands in his pockets. My audience preserved a respectful silence, though there was a queer look on the face of the female portion, while the monster, I mean the male part, made a motion of the hands suggestive of applause. I sank back into a seat. The crier walked up the hall, putting out the lights as he went, and saying in a voice startlingly loud in the stillness : “ ’S no use waiting any longer t’night, and the sooner I shet up the less gas will be wasted. I ’ll jest hand them folks their money back, and you can settle with me.” Then, as the company dispersed, one of whom, by the way, declined to receive his quarters, saying sotto voce, “ I’ve had a delightful entertainment, and really I feel conscientious scruples at taking anything back.” The crier proceeded to sum up, “ The hall, well, we can’t charge more ’n half-price under the circumstances, — the hall ’ll be ten ; lights, well, say two ’n’ half. My cryin’ two ’n’ half, ought to be five ; ’s jest as much work ’s if the whole island come. Sta’din’ at the door ’ (he could not say taking tickets), “ dollar ; sixteen dollars jest, then, there ’s the books, Miss Coffin said I was to see ’em returned, here they be, no, there was six, and here’s only five.”
I remembered that I had left Handy Andy at my room, and as that would give me a little more delay, I asked him to call at the hotel for the other volume, and strode away. I was tempted to turn toward the wharf and to keep straight on from the end of the pier, but for the sight of a couple slowly walking up the street. One was my solitary female au — spectator, and the other a demon in a velvet coat and wideawake.
When I reached my room again, the volume was gone, and must be paid for if not recovered ; it was one of a set, but that was a trifle compared to the fact that my bill, my counterfeit, was a deposit.
My friend the crier was good-natured, however, and agreed to call in the morning. Moreover, it served me as an excuse for not settling that night, that I must return the book or know what it would cost me. Besides, he was secure that I could no more leave this island than Robinson Crusoe could leave his.
I sat down on the hotel balcony, in utter despair. From the parlor came a murmur of low-voiced conversation, and I fancied that the tones were those of a woman and a serpent, that is, a painter, but I cared not. What was I to do ? My bill at the hotel ; my afternoon’s bad luck, twenty-three dollars ; my' evening’s failure, say twenty more; my fare to Boston, where I must be by the next evening. It may seem a light matter, but to an inexperienced lad of nineteen it was no joke.
While I sat there, absorbed in my trouble, a hand was laid upon my shoulder which made me look up. It was Fred P-. “ See here, my' boy', I ’ve been looking for you all the evening. Here’s Minnie says she must go tomorrow, and-—I don’t like to trouble you, but she wants enough for her fare to Boston, and I ’ve lost my wallet today, I believe ; I can’t find it anywhere. Let me have that twenty I paid for the boat last week. I did not mean to ask you for it, as I supposed it might not be convenient till you got home, but I can’t help myself.” Here was a new complication. We had gone on a fishing party together, and Fred had paid the bill; but I had undertaken to get the other fellows’ shares, and had done so. I had handed it all to Fred’s roommate and college chum, who had since left the island. It was evident that Cunningham had forgotten to pay Fred. They were of course intimate friends, and I was comparatively a stranger, who had been kindly taken up by them. I felt awfully, for I hardly knew how to make the truth appear. Suppose Cunningham, a rich and careless young fellow, had forgotten all about it. Fred was out of sorts too over something, for he was usually very even-tempered. When I said, “ I must have paid it,” I could not for the moment remember that I had done so. He said roughly, “ O bother, no ; I could n’t have had the money ; beside, Cunningham would have told me, and he never said a word, only that I ’d better get it before you spent all your money.”
“ Mr. P-,” said I, “ I will go up to your room and arrange with you ; we will not dispute here on the steps.”
Fred led the way, muttering something about “ snobs picked up at watering-places,” which made me furious. When we got to his chamber I was so angry that I forgot all about my bill deposited at the library, and pulled out my ports monnaie; and by the time he got the gas lit I was opening it, and feeling in the secret pocket. There was the bill, twenty dollars, and I slapped it down on the table, saying, “As I am to pay this twice over, I ’ll trouble you to leave a receipt at the office for me to-morrow morning. I don't wish to pay the third time.” And then I went off to my own room raging. When I cooled off a little, it came to me that I had passed off a bad bill on Fred P-, but to that I answered my conscience, that it was for an unjust claim. At any rate, I was quite ready to go to jail or anywhere else, and went to sleep thinking of an odd story I had heard, in consequence of which I dreamed that I was sent to the Nantucket prison for passing counterfeit money, and that every night I was in the habit of slipping out of my cell and prowling round the streets. Then I was giving a reading to a crowded house, but the books were all wrong. Whatever I took up turned to a dictionary or a spelling-book. Then I woke up and thought over two plans, one of which was to go off to sea in a whaler from New Bedford, the other was to get Fred to have me arrested for passing the counterfeit bill on him and sent to Boston for trial. Once there, I could get some one to help me. In the midst of working out these plans to a grand and triumphant tableau I got to sleep again, and this time dreamed that I was being marched up State Street in chains, and that I was stopped at each corner and rearrested on a new charge, when I was really awakened by a strange man in my room, who was shaking me by the shoulder. My first thought was, “ It has come now, and I’m glad of it.” It was the watchmaker. “ I ’ve come round to see thee,” he began, “ to look at thy watch once more. I’ve thought thee might be wanting money a good deal, and I don’t mind letting thee have twenty dollars, if thee thinks thee can pay me in a week or so. I guess thee’s pretty honest as folks go.”
I was just putting the watch into his hands, when the door opened again, and in came Apollyon, I mean the artist.
“ My dear young friend,” he began, “ what is all this about a broken buggy ? I’ve just seen the stable fellow hanging round here, and of course you are not to pay a sixpence for the team or for the damage. I am afraid I was a little careless in letting your horse get away — in fact, I — well — I wanted — it was of the utmost importance for me to have an uninterrupted talk with Miss — with Miss P——, Two years ago we were engaged. It was broken off by a most unlucky chance, and I have never had it in my power to explain matters till yesterday. So the stable bill, which I shall cut down considerably, is my business. For the other matter, I owe you an apology, which I tender now.”
I was too bewildered to answer at once, but the artist, noticing my Quaker friend for the first time, drew himself up with mock solemnity, and added, “ If you demand further satisfaction, there will be coffee for two down stairs in about ten minutes, and a friend of mine will be glad to see you.” And out he went.
I had just exchanged my watch for the good Quaker’s bills, and he had departed, when Fred bounced in, blushing up to the eyes.
“ I say, old fellow,” was his greeting, “ I behaved abominably last night. This morning I found my money, you know ; left it in my pantaloons pocket when I changed to go sharking. There was more than I cared to lose ; and then I was awfully mad about Minnie, seeing that artist fellow with her ; but he came up to my room last night and it is all right, — tell you some day. And I found a letter on my table from Cunningham, which I ought to have had three days ago, telling me about that boat money ; you did pay twice, and here it is back, the bill you gave me. And I beg your pardon, heaps.”
I don’t know what I said as we shook hands, but I certainly felt on good terms with all creation, and all the more as Fred added, “ Here ’s a book, by the way, I found in your room when I went to look for you, — where were you, by the way, all the evening? -— and took up to my room to read. I luckily saw it this morning, and suppose you’d like to carry it back to the Athenæum.” Then I remembered my bill which I had deposited, and rather astonished Fred by tearing out of bed and flinging on my clothes, and starting down street on the run.
I must have startled the amiable librarian by my breathless and somewhat dishevelled appearance; but like a true Nantucket woman, she was perfectly self-possessed and polite, and accepted my confused statement with entire composure, put Handy Andy on its shelf, and handed me my twenty in the envelope in which she had placed it, expressing a kind wish to meet me again another summer.
It is a religious belief with the islanders, that whosoever visits Nantucket once will surely return again, and I must say it is a well-founded belief. There is a spell in that balmy air, like that of the sweet waters of the fountain of Trevi at Rome, to lure back the traveller, and whoever eats of the chowder of Siasconset will long to eat it again.
When I got back to the hotel the clerk met me. “ The crier ’s been after you,” said he ; “ come to say that the Athenæum won’t charge anything for room and lights, as there was no exhibition ; and I told him that he mustn’t charge but a dollar for his work ; so if you ’ll leave that with me, he ’ll be satisfied.”
I think I enjoyed my last breakfast at the Ocean House even more than any previous one, and that is saying a good deal. I had time, too, to stop and redeem my watch, with thanks to the good watchmaker, on my way to the boat. The bill I got back from Fred was unquestioned ; it was one of our Boston bank-notes, and certainly came out of my pocket-book, however it got there. The counterfeit was safe in the envelope, just as I received it.
As I stepped aboard the steamer;I saw Miss Minnie and at her side Moloch, that is, Mr. C-, who lost no time in making the amende. “ I leave Miss P-,” he said, “in your care. I did think of going across with her, but a stern sense of justice, which is the prevailing trait of my character, compels me to leave the field wholly to you. I owe you a tête-à-tête in place of that which I stole yesterday.”
“ Don’t believe one word he says,” was Minnie’s, I mean Miss P——’s retort ; “he is dying to be off to Sancoty Head sketching, and only came down to see me off, because I made him come and apologize to you for his trick.”
“ She put me up to it,” the victim began, when the last bell sounded, and he was obliged to hurry ashore in the midst of his audacious fib, and I was left to enjoy one of the pleasantest journeys I ever made.
Of course Miss P—— asked me what put it into my head to give a reading, and I told her the whole story, and got sympathy enough and fun enough out of it to pay me twice over. "When it was all finished she said, “ One thing I don’t understand, how you had two twenties, when you only thought you had one.”
“ I am sure I don’t either. It is clear that the one I gave Fred last night was the same I laid away for reserve fund; where the other came from I cannot imagine.”
“ Let me look at it,” said she, and I took it out of the envelope and gave it to her. She turned it over once or twice, and presently showed me a mark on one corner. “ This is a lesson to me not to be so careless again. I might have injured you very seriously for life,” she said. Do you remember the day it rained, and you went over to the shell-shop to get me the basket I bought there ; you paid two dollars for it, and I handed you the money when you returned. I remember thinking how polite it was of you that you took the bill without even looking at it, and put it in your porte monnaie at once. This is the bill. I just noticed the ‘ two,’ and not the cipher. I got it at Benton’s in Washington Street the day before I left ; was told it was bad nt Hovey’s, and then I marked it, so as not to pass it away, meaning to ask father to return it. I forgot all about it, and having only fives in my purse, except this, gave it for a two.”
The reader can skip the sequel if desirous to do so. I think it worth telling. I was kindly asked by Miss P—— to call upon her while she remained Miss P——, and on her return from her summer travels was reminded of my promise by a note, specifying the evening. Somebody was there with a velvet coat and a mustache that was finer than ever ; but really, as Miss Ellen P——, younger sister to Miss Minnie, was so good as to entertain me, I did not find the artist in the way. As we walked down Park Street together at the close of the evening he asked me to come to his studio the next day at twelve.
I managed to get off from the store ; it was a dull time, and did so. I met some ladies at the studio, Mrs. P——, Miss P——, and Miss Ellen. They had come to see a picture which was upon the easel, just finished. It was a view of the South Shore at Nantucket. There was one figure in it, a young man in a graceful attitude gazing upon the surf. I think the figure was a little flattered, though Miss P—— said not ; but she saw things through a very rosy atmosphere that day. What struck me most was, that a note addressed to me lay on top of the frame, and this I was desired by the ladies to read aloud. It was as follows : —
“ Mr. Woodbridge will confer a real favor upon the artist by accepting tin’s little memento of one of the happiest days in the life of the donors, which is offered as a slight reparation for the inconveniences brought upon Mr. Woodbridge by sitting for his portrait. With the best wishes of his friends,
“ I never had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Woodbridge read aloud before,” said Miss P-, very demurely. “ I have understood that he is quite an amateur.”
I have heard the picture highly praised by competent judges. I hope to see it hanging on my parlor wall some day, and I may add that my chances of having a parlor and of calling Mrs. C——, née P——, sister-in-law have considerably increased since I became a junior partner in the house of P—— Brothers & Co., Boston, Mass.