IN Killick Cove the family wood-lots still furnished most of the fuel used, yet in very cold weather there was a certain amount of coal required for the tall, bedizened stoves which blistered the paint on the mantelpiece of many a sitting-room in the village.
Among the most unmistakable signs of winter’s approach were the arrival of Cap’n Job Gaskett’s diminutive cargo of coal at the town wharf and the subsequent sounds of his shovel throughout the Cove as he delivered it from a bright blue cart backed up among the dry leaves at the cellar bulkheads. After this, it was reckoned time to screw on storm porches and bank up the houses with rock-weed and kelp from the shore.
A prolonged dry spell extending well into October had been followed by a week of sombre clouds, with the wind piping fresh from the northeast, bringing the rote of the sea up across the eastern marshes in a constant jarring rumble, and driving whirlwinds of dust and leaves up the narrow road till this already rocky thoroughfare was scoured down to bare ledge in many fresh places.
In anticipation of much needed rain at last, all over the Cove cisterns and gutters had been put in readiness, but further than a slight misting during each night, the howling northeaster brought no relief.
“What d’ ye cal’late, Job? ” inquired Cap’n Simeon Roundturn, as Job Gaskett occupied his usual chair in the store after supper. “Air we liable to git rain out o’ this, or no ? ”
“I don’t think it, you! ” answered Job without hesitation. “When she fust come to take holt here to the east’ard this way, I was some in hopes she’d make out to blow up a rainstorm, but I don’t scursely look for a one now. This here acts to me jest like only one of them regTar-built ole dry no’theasters, and nothin’ else.”
“Be consid’ble rough on folks round here ef the ground doos go to work and close up this fall without we git rain fust,” said Cap’n Simeon. “I hear tell the alder swamps is nigh bone dry, so ’s there won’t be no wood hauled acrosst ’em this winter unlessn there’s rain, and I ’ll resk but what more ’n half the wells to this Cove has went dry a’ready. ”
“By fire, you! ” exclaimed Job Gaskett. “The prospects in regards to water doos appear a grain duberous, and no mistake. Now this aft’noon there, I hauled up ole Mis’ Lyddy Kentall her little pod o’ coal,and come to go acrosst Merrymeeting Bridge, why I see the brook was dreened dry, or so nigh it there wa’n’t no fun in it anyways; nothin’ only the leastest little dite o’ dreeble left to her, and that ’s sumpin I seldom ever see the likes on afore sence I been round.”
“Sho! ” said Simeon. “I dunno for the life o’ me jest where them folks up that way would git a turn o’ water to, ’lowin’ the brook did take a notion to go back on ’em complete. That ’s all the way ever I know for ’em to water up after their wells goes dry, without, ” he added jocosely, “without they was to turn to and call on ole Aunt Polly, or else some other of them ole ancient style folks to come back and help ’em out someways or ’nother. ”
“Mebbe they ’ll be drove to that yit, ” said Job. “ ’T would n’t be the fust time Aunt Polly located water, that’s dead sure. Speakin’ of her, I was thinkin’ only to-day this is the time o’ year, and jest the very weather, would started her and the rest-part o’ them ole fly-by-nights on one of them dod-blasted frolics o’ theirn to Merrymeeting Bridge.”
“You don’t cal’late them ’s all the ones to this Cove ever was up to sich works by nights, do ye, Job?” asked Asa Fairway, suddenly stopping his usual vigorous whittling by the stove.
“All the ones?” repeated Cap’n Job disdainfully. “Not much they ain’t all the ones! I don’t misdoubt myself the least dite but what they’s folks now to Kentalls’s Hill and Number Four deestrict too, for that matter, that’s up to all the works ever Aunt Polly tried on! I know plaguy well they is, come to that! They’s two famblies to my own knowin’, down there to Number Four, that’s got bridles to their houses yit! I won’t turn to and call ary person by name, but ef I ain’t seen the tail-end of a reg’lar-built, proper ole witch-bridle hangin’ out from betwixt the mattresses of a bed to a certing house down there inside a fortnight’s time, then all is, I never yit sot eye on a one nowheres! ”
“Why, ’taint the leastways onlikely! ” exclaimed Asa. “I could turn to this minute and name you an ole sir down to the Lower Neck there that kep’ a bridle to his house, a-hanging right out in folkses sight ’longside the chimbly in the spare room for years, and ’peared to set a store by her, too. I done him quite a consid’ble big favor one time, and I know he up and says to me then, ' Asy, ’ s’ he, ‘ take anything I got that’s mine, ’ s’ he, ‘ without it’s the woman and that air ole bridle! ’ He was jest knowin’ enough not to leave that go fur out o’ sight, I took good notice! ”
“Set-fire, you! ” cried Job in a tone of deep disgust. “ It don’t look right for nobody, I don’t give a rap who ’t is, to take and hang on to them tormented ole witch-bridles so-fashion! All the fit way ever to serve them kind of things is to heave ’em ker - chunk into the fire, and then mebbe you ’ll know somewheres nigh where in tunkett they be to! Plague on the things, the time my ole sir put the L on to our ole place, come to rip off the boarding a grain, dinged ef there did n’t hang a complete bridle, big ’s life, all plastered in betwixt the studding, she was! Mother she would n’t leave nobody else tech of the thing on no account, but took and ketched holt right off herself with the tongs, and flipped her out on the floor, full bigness. Extry big long one, this one was; guess she ’d go nigh on to three fathom, come to heave out the kinks and haul her good and taut. Mother she cal’lated for sure ’t was the same ole bridle Sairy Kentall hove round the neck of ole Skip’ Nate Spurshoe, the time she and them other ole fly-by-nights turned to and rid him chock to the Nubble and back afore daylight. You rec’lect the L part to our ole home-place used to set up in the sheep pastur’ back o’ Kentalls’s Hill in them days, and seems ’s though ole Sairy put up there all soul alone quite a few years afore she fin’lly got through. Mother she ’lowed this was her bridle no doubt, and says to us young uns right off, ‘ Don’t ary one on ye come a-nigh, but, ’ s’ she, ' I want the whole kit on ye should take notice of this bridle in real good shape, so ’s to know jest what sich tormented things is like unto for all the rest-part o’ your lives.’ Dretful pertikler, she was. ‘ There, ’ s’ she,
' this here strand is mostly wove out of tow, and this here one has allus got to be hair from a mare’s tail, and all the rest-part,’ s’ she, ‘ is nothin’ only the inside bark of a yaller birch tree.’ Soon’s ever she ’d give us the whole bus’niss about them bridles all complete, she turned to and chucked this one into the fireplace quicker ’n scat ! ”
“Served her good and right, too! ” declared Asa Fairway. “You couldn’t learn your mother no great in regards to them kind o’ works, now I tell ye what! She knowed well a bridle wa’n’t no fittin’ thing to leave layin’ round loose in no person’s house them times, or now’days neither! They’s folks to-day right here to this Cove that ain’t forgot how to heave the bridle, and don’t you run away with the idee they have! ” he concluded, with an emphatic nod of the head.
“Without I’m consid’ble mistakened, ” remarked Cap’n Roundturn from his high desk behind the counter, “your mother, Job, was to ole Sairy Kentalls’s place up there the very same night Skip’ Nate Spurshoe was attackted so scand’lous by that parcel of ole fly-by-nights, wa’n’t she? ”
“Godfrey mighty, yas!” replied Cap’n Job. “Mother was up to her place that evenin’ to try and borry some med’cine for the ole sir. ’Twa’n’t only jest a short spell after they ’d got married, that wa’n’t. Set-fire, yas! Mother allus claimed she see the fust commencemint o’ them works all right enough, and master works she called ’em, too! ”
“Someways or ’nother I most forgit jest how it worked in the very fust send-off of that air scrape, ” said Asa Fairway, scratching his head reflectively. “Skip’ Nate had been talking of it round how Sairy Kentall had teched his vessel so ’s he couldn’t git ary decent trip o’ fish, or what was the spat about betwixt the two at the fust sendoff ? ”
“No, no,” answered Cap’n Gaskett, who was universally recognized as the highest possible authority on such matters. “That wa’n’t the way on’t at all, Asy. You ’re way off’n your course. The fust commencemint was like unto this way; guess likely I ’ve heern it told over times enough to git the thing somewheres nigh straight, and resk it! Ye see, ole Skip’ Nate Spurshoe, him that was gran’sir to them Spurshoes was lost in the ole Marcellus on Matinicus Rock, you rec’lect,he’d only jest arrived home here from the Western Banks with a trip o’ fish in the ole ‘ pink ’ Equator. He ’d landed his fare up to the fishyard islant same ’s usual, but seems ’s though he hadn’t quite fished out his whole bounty-time yit awhile that season, and so he was layin’ here to the Cove sojering same’s they used to till his time was up, so ’s to go down to the custom-house at the Harbor and draw full bountymoney, ye see. All his crew, without ’t was three or four, had went home, but ole Skip’ he ’d turn to and git under way of a nice mod’rit day with what few still stopped aboard ’long on him, and jest drop outside here onto the aidge of Betty Moody’s Gardin, mebbe, or some place anyways where they could down killick in tol’ble shoal water.
“Then they’d turn to and heave a line or two over the vessel’s rail jest so ’s to say they ’d fished ag’in that day, and then up anchor, fill away, and give it to her back in home here with a little air o’ wind to the south’ard by the fust of the aft’noon. Take and chalk her right down slappo in the book, ‘ ’Nother day’s fishing outside.’ Got it all worked down to a consid’ble fine thing them times, hadn’t they, Simeon ? ”
“Oh, complete!” replied Cap’n Roundturn, with an approving grin. “Cute enough, some o’ them ole fellers was. There was any God’s quantity got rich off’n the bounty them times, and never so much as wet ary line over the rail! Reg’lar out and out snap it must been for ’em them days! ”
“I only wisht we had half the snap to this day o’ the world! ” continued Cap’n Job. “But what I’m coming at, seems ’s though ole Skip’ Nate come ashore from his vessel one aft’noon after they’d been out on the Gardin sojering away bounty-time same’s usual, and he’d fetched ashore ’long on him a blame’ great bundle of stripped halibut, cal’lating to lug her up home to his woman.
“Lived clean away out back here to hell and gone, he did, — I was to his ole cellar-hole only t’other day, hunting up my cow, — and seems ’s though nigh dark, come to git somewheres about halfway over Kentalls’s Hill, and he run plump a-foul on ole Sairy coming down along. It ’pears them two wa’n’t none too chummy jest about that time, for the reason that ole Sairy had been making some little gossup-talk round amongst folks in regards to Skip’ Nate’s putting in so dod-blowed much bounty-time after he ’d got home with his vessel that fall, and ole Skip’ was knowin’ to it in good shape.
“So bimeby when ole Sairy come to ask him this time would he give her some of the stripped halibut for winter, he jest says right up-and-comin’, ‘ No sir-ee, sir! Not the fust damned ioty ’ll you git out o’ me, marm! ' ’Cording to the tell of some folks, he ’lowed he’d see her chock to hell ’fore ever he’d spare her no fish, but I allus misdoubted ef ever he done so, myself. Them that dasst up and say over that way to ary one o’ them ole ancient folks here to this Cove was consid’ble scattering, now I’m tellin’ of ye! ”
“My soul, but you can bate high they was!” cried Asa Fairway. “’Twas nothin’ only a set-fired meracle ever Skip’ Nate dasst deny her no halibut anyways! ”
“So ’twas! ” assented Job, “but the way it worked, prob’ly the ole sir was nigh half slued with the red rum they use to fetch home from Novy Scoshy, them days. Why, sence my goin’, we’d allus cal’late to have a kag of her lashed on deck good and handy, with a tin dipper seized onto her by a lanyard! Turn to, all hands and take holt, and drink hearty, too ! That was the style aboard a fisherman them days ye know, and all the way ever I could account for Skip’ Nate’s actin’ that way is, he ’d been laying right to that kag o’ red rum pooty much all day out there on the Gardin, and was jest a grain how-comeye-so. Anyways, he wouldn’t spare Sairy Kentall no halibut that time, and seems’s though she up and told him right then and there how she ’d make him ache for it in every blame’ bone there was to his karkis, and then she kep’ on dowm along the ro’d to the west’ard.
“ Skip’ Nate he started up over the hill ag’in, but had only went a very short ways, when all to once the lashin’s on his bundle of stripped halibut was cut clip and clean, so ’s the fish flew all over the ro’d there, forty diff’rent ways for Sunday. Wal, o’ course he nacherly turned to right off to gaft onto ’em, and lash ’em together ag’in, never once mistrusted nothin’ outen the common run, ye see, but by fire! quick ’s ever he ’d make out to git one rope-yarn tied up good and solid, another would bust loose ag’in, and fin’lly, git them strips o’ dry fish lashed up once more he could n’t, not ef he went to the ole scratch!
“All of a suddin, he heerd a rustling sound in amongst the alder bushes side of the ro’d there, and bedide ef he did n’t ketch sight of Sairy Kentall jest makin’ ready to heave a bridle at him. Seems’s though she’d slipped right around to ole Hetty Moyeses’ on the nor’rard side o’ the hill, and borried a bridle o’ her, cal’lating to git a comeuppance right away off that very same night. All them ole ancient folks was allus and forever in cohoots together, ye know. What I mean, one was allus standin’ by ready to take holt and help out t’other in any kind o’ dod-blasted works, so Skip’ Nate he see blame’ quick how the land laid, and jest slipped his cable you might say, and took up the ro’d for all he was wuth!
“Them days, ye see, it used to be the way that when one o’ them kind of folks got after ary pore devil with her bridle, all the squeak ever he stood in God’s world for shakin’ of her was to cross water, or else a stone wall, ary one. Ef so be it he could jest make out to do ary one o’ them two things, all the ole witch women-folks this side o’ hell couldn’t do him no hurt, not that time, anyways. There was sunthin’ proper sing’lar about the thing someways, so’s after that ’ere, the bridle couldn’t be hove over nobody, and Skip’ Nate he jest chucked away his halibut into the ditch, and give it to her up over Kentalls’s Hill fair b’ilin’, cal’lating to try and make the ole stone wall that commences there to the sou’west corner of Amis Kentalls’s mowing field.
“Ole Sairy she fetched a master leap out o’ them bushes, and after him same’s a streak, a-swinging of her bridle over her head, and screechin’ and cacklin’ fit to raise the dead, but by fire! Skip’ Nate made out to save his bacon that time, anyways, though the very same secont he lep’ acrosst that wall, ole Sairy let go the bridle at him, so’s they allus ’lowed she struck him, but in room of falling fair round his neck, she jest brushed his shoulder like.”
“Jee-whitaker, you! but wa’n’t that some close! ” exclaimed Asa Fairway, with a sigh of relief. “I remember me now pretty much all about that set-fired racket. The ole folks used to set there to our place and gossup them things over amongst ’em more ’n a little.”
“I ’ll warrant ye they done so ! ” said Cap’n Job, “and there was a blame’ sight more ’n jest only old women’s gossup-talk to it, too! That ’ere turn in the ro’d atop of the hill there has allus been called the Devil’s Gap from that day to this,, ye know. But there, what’s the good talking ? There ’s jest sich actions goin’ on now-days — any grists on ’em ! I cal’late there’s folks within cable’s length of where we ’re settin’ to that’s chock-a-block jammed full o’ jest sich, only they ’re cunning ’nough not to git ketched.”
“Godfrey mighty, you! ” cried Cap’n Roundturn, “I ain’t noways sure there ain’t, myself, ’twixt you and me and the windlass-bitts! But jest how come it your mother got drawed into it that time, Job ? ”
“I ’ll git round to that ’ere direc’ly, Cap’n,” replied Job, by no means to be hurried in his narrative. “Seems’s though ole Sairy chafed consid’ble bad in regards to this here slip-up of hern, and made her brags everywheres round how one o’ these days she ’d git a comeuppance ’long of Skip’ Nate in a way he nor nobody else ever once dremp’ on.
“So you see,” Cap’n Gaskett went on, “for quite a few weeks there Skip’ Nate was nigh skeered of his life, but bimeby I s’pose likely it sort o’ blowed over like, and he commenced to git his tail up ag’in a grain. For one thing, I rec’lect mother told how his cow kep’ gitting mired in the hackmatack swamp that fall, and how his woman was bothered to death in gittin’ butter to come every blame’ time she sot out to churn, and all sichlike works was going on stiddy, so ’s fin’lly him and his folks figgered ole Sairy cal’lated to take it out that way, same’s them ole creeturs allus and forever used to be doing of, ’lowin’ they held a gredge agin ye.
“Wal, by this time ’t was way along late in the fall o’ the year and nigh time for snow to fly, so’s the bulk o’ the vessels was thinking of hauling up. Bimeby one day she commenced hermin’ up good and greasy here to loo’ard for a gale o’ wind, and by night-time I know mother said it had canted out about east-no’th-east, blowin’ like a man, thick o’ rain and slate by spells, and breezenin’ on stiddy every minute, till down there to our place you couldn’t hear talking, for the rote there was a-going.
“I wa’n’t only a consid’ble small shaver then, but I allus rec’lect mother’s telling of us kids ’t was jest the time o’ year, and jest the very style night, ole Sairy Kentall, and Hetty Moye, and all the rest-part o’ them ole ancient folks would be liable to pick for one o’ them hell-fired frolics of theirn to Merrymeeting Bridge. Blow my shirt ef ever I can set and harken to the rote sounding anyways loud to this day, or hear the rustle of dry leaves under foot in the fall o’ the year, without it puts me in mind o’ them same ole folks, and them dod-blasted high-jinks up there to the bridge.”
“Same here!” declared Asa Fairway. “Be jiggered ef I would n’t lievser lay hove to in a Janooary breeze o’ wind on Georges, sooner ’n take chances cruising round this Cove by nights in the fall o’ the year! Seems ’s ef I could hear the swish of a bridle through the air every time I scuffled up the dry leaves in the ro’d there to Spurshoes’ Hollow by nights! ”
“I can’t noways abide ’em myself,” said Cap’n Job, “but what I was going to say, bimeby about nine o’clock this here nasty blowy night, the ole sir was took dretful bad with a colic that kep’ growing wuss and wuss till he like to died with the pain on ’t. Mother she turned to and give him this to take, and that to take, and done everything in God’s world she knowed, but couldn’t seem to strike nothin’ would corroborate nor bender her no great, ary one, so fin’lly she took and wropped herself up tight, and put her for ole Sairy Kentalls’s.
“ All them ole ancient folks was called clean away up at doctoring, ye know anyways, but Sairy Ken tall in pertikler was nigh old ’s the north star, and I cal’late what she didn’t know about mixin’ up med’cines wa’n’t noways wuth knowing. Them days she was counted an extry big herb amongst them kind o’ folks, anyhow, and seems ’s though she’d turn to and mix up a master cure for the colic that would lay ye out stiffer ’n ary handspike without you handled her jest so. I know for one thing there was rat into her, all baked black and cripsy, and pounded up fine, and wolfsbane, and I won’t say now jest what not, but she was a grand good med’cine to take holt, that I ’ll gurentee!
“Wal, mother she footed it clean way up there this here dungeon-black stormy night a-purpose to see ef ole Sairy wouldn’t spare her a little grain o’ that same cure, being as the ole sir was attackted so bad, and that’s all the way ever she come to be anyways knowin’ in regards to them works there to Skip’ Nate’s that night.
“Sairy she made out to spare her a little small vial of the colic cure, and jest as she done so, that very same minute there come the divil’s own thumpin’ and shindy on the ruff right chock overhead, so’s mother ’lowed it like to stunded her.
“ ' Mis’ Gaskitt, ’ says ole Sairy right off spango, ‘I ’ll have to take and leave ye, bein’s I got a pertikler app’intmint to keep this evening, but,’ s’ she, ‘I want you should set right here where you be so ’s to git all good and rested up afore ever you go. Don’t be noways put out at nothin’ you may happen to sight, for I ’ll gurentee there won’t be the leastest thing do you no hurt,’ s’ she. Some ways or ’nother ole Sairy allus used to be real clever ’long o’ mother, reg’lar. Wal sir, she had n’t more ’n fairly out with the words afore she fetched a slat, and flippo! away she went right chock into nothin’, same ’s a soap-bubble doos when she busts, eggsac’ly, and in room o’ her, to the very spot where she sot, mother see this tormented great big shiny black cat setting there lickin’ her chops, and blinkin’ away at her, big ’s ole Cuffey!
“I don’t b’lieve ary word o’ no sich rubbidge, you! ” exclaimed Sheriff Windseye, who had just dropped in. “I’ve allus and forever been hearing that same gossup-talk here to this Cove, but set-fire! at this day o’ the world, I ’d full lievser take stock into that rot they pretend to call grav’tation! ” The sheriff had recently announced his intention of running for the legislature, and perhaps felt that he should now rise superior to vulgar superstition.
“Dod-blow it all!” cried Job, “I would n ’ t turn my hand to have ye b’lieve it or disb’lieve it, ary one, Cap’n Windseye. It ’s God’s own truth jest the same, and I’m telling of it jest eggsac’ly for all the world the way I ’ve allus heerd it from them that see it, sence I was the bigness of a trawl-kag! ”
“Godfrey mighty! ” put in Asa Fairway. “Seems ’s though ’t ain’t scursely raytionable to misdoubt the truth on ’t at this day o’ the world! Bedide ef you ain’t as much call to set there and tell us how C’lumbus never come ashore up there to Plymith! I would n’t wonder ef it didn’t give the ole lady a master start though, seeing sichlike works going on right afore her that way.”
“Never jarred her a mite! ” declared Job. “Not a cent’s wuth! No more ’n ’t would me, for I cal’late I seen cur’user works than ever them made out to be, not to say but what them was consid’ble cur’us, too.
“ This here ole black cat she sot there only a short spell, and then all to once lep’ chock into the fireplace and up chimbly ’fore ever you’d say Jack Robinson ! Then there come a hell-fired ole cacklin’ and laughin’ up there on the ruff from two or three more o’ them ole ancient folks, and then pooty quick off they went together through the air, the whole blame’ kit on ’em, same’s so many ole night-herins. By fire! but ye know mother she jest made up her mind there was goin’ to be some master high-jinks to Merrymeeting Bridge that night, for a sure thing!
“They allus allowed how them days ole Betty Baker would skip over from Ole York ways, and Joanny Tinney she ’d skin down acrosst country from Eliot Neck, and ole Matty Merton clean away up to the head o’ the crick, all them ole fly-by-nights was liable to git together ’long o’ our folks for a frolic quick ’s ever it come the fall o’ the year. Betwixt us and the windlass-bitts, ” continued Cap’n Job, lowering his voice with a quick glance about him, “I’ve heern it kind o’ gossuped round on the sly like, how ole Mis’ Rhody Kentall up to the Top o’ the P’int there, you take her mother, and she ’d turn out ef she took a notion, and hold up her end to them frolics ’long o’ the best on ’em. Mind ye, I won’t say as ever she done so, but I’ve heern it talked she would so ef there was a little sumpin extry in the wind.
“But you see this pertikler night them ole creeturs was fairly chock-ablock full o’ mischeef. They had pertikler fish to fry jest about that time, and I cal ’late the whole hell-fired troop on ’em was turned out all greased up in good shape with that ’ere bloody ’intmint of theirn, so ’s to fly through the air same’s ary hagdon-gull. You un’stand ole Skip’ Nate’s woman there, she ’d been gone away nigh onto a week’s time then, a-doing for a darter o’ hern that was layin’ sick to Dover P’int, so ’s the ole sir was left all soul alone there to home without nobody to do for him at all, nor jest so much ’s even keep him comp’ny by nights.
“Seems’s though ever sence his woman quit him that way, Skip’ Nate he ’d been growing ter’ble oneasy ag’in for fear o’ bein’ ketched onawares by night-times, so’s ’t was seldom ever he dasst turn in at all till nigh daylight, and come to take it this here dungeonblack, blowy night, why nacherly he had the fidgits onto him wuss ’n ever he had.
“Gracious evers, they ’lowed he’d turned to and rigged up a set of shores ag’in the two outside doors, and spiked hard-wood cleats atop of every blame’ sash there was to the house, and every night reg’lar he ’d take and shove his thunderin’ great, over-growed sea-chist chock up ag’in the bedroom door where he slept to. She was a master big heavy chist, so’s ’t was much’s ever he could budge her hisself, and him as stocky built, withey ole feller too, as ever was raised to this Cove.
“Wal, it come this here dretful dark, stormy night, and he done same ’s ever with the door soon ‘s ever it commenced to grow dark un’neath o’ the table, and lit him up a pair o’ big candles in room o’ jest only one, same ’s he most gin’ally had. Seems ’s though he figgered this night he ’d full better set up in the rockin’-cheer, in room of turnin’ in, though he never cal’lated to take a wink o’ sleep anyways, but it ’pears he did bimeby kind o’ lose hisself like, and fust thing he knowed he was woke up by the scrapin’ o’ that plaguy great chist acrosst the floor, and be jiggered ef them tormented ole trollops had n’t made out to git inside soineways, and shove open his bedroom door quite a few inches so quick! Up he lep’ for God’s sakes, and hove hisself ag’in the door with all his heft, but in room o’ shetting of her none, she kep’ on opening stiddy jest so fast, till all to once some on ’em hove a bridle through the gap, and come within one o’ fetchin’ of him the fust clip.
“Wal, the pore ole divil see right off then ’t was prob’ly all day ’long on him, but still it come acrosst him he might by chance be able to fetch a leap into bed and haul the quilt over him someways so ’s they could n’t make out to heave that dod-blasted ole bridle round his neck, and so that ’s what he tried on, and same time commenced to holler for resicue same’s a stuck pig, so’s they heern the shindy tol’ble plain chock down to the shore, mother said.”
“ Resicue ? Who in tunkett did he cal’late would turn to and try on resicuing of him from them kind? ” demanded Asa Fairway earnestly.
“Oh, jest fairly sheered out of all manner o’ reason, the pore ole sir was, and not to blame neither! ” said Cap’n Gaskett. “Nacherly his taking to bed same’s he done did n’t amount to shucks anyways, for the dinged ole trollops jest turned to and cut the bedkivers off’n him in less ’n no time at all, a-screechin’ and cacklin’ the wusst ole kind o’ way, and then they jest attackted of him fair scand’lous, the whole troop on ’em to once, same’s a parcel of set-fired dog-fish, ’cording to tell. The whole pack fell atop on him, and fit him tooth and nail, and like to have massacreed him outright ’fore ever they made out to git their dod-blasted ole bridle hauled good and taut round his neck. Then, by fire! of course his name was nothin’ only jest mud. He was theirn then, clip and clean, huffs, horns, and hide, as the feller says, and ’t was then they turned to and rid the ole sir through the thick o’ the storm way down past Ole York Village chock to Cape Neddick Nubble and back ag’in to this Cove afore ever the fust streak o’ day showed up to the east’ard.”
“Be jiggered, you! but wa’n’t that some horrid, though! ” cried Asa Fairway. “And cruelized the pore ole sir awful, too, I allus heern tell, so’s come to git home ag’in he was blood and gurry nigh from head to foot, and the togs all ripped and tore off’n the back of him complete! ”
“That’s a actual fact,” asserted Cap’n Job. “Why, they like to done him up for good and all that night. ’T was going on a month’s time ’fore ever he was so’s to set foot out o’ bed ag’in, and ” —
“Jest what d’ye cal’late ever them ole folks done to Skip’ Nate on this here master frolic you tell on, Job?” again interrupted Sheriff Windseye, with a sidelong wink and leer at the others present. “I allus heern it said how come to git back home ag’in he was one of the very lookin’est objicts ever went on two legs ! ”
“I guess likely that ’s nothin’ only gospil truth, too, Cap’n Windseye,” answered Job. “Godfrey mighty, you! why wouldn’t he looked that way, for king’s sakes ? Jest you turn to and take it right chock home to your own self for a secont, Cap’n. You cal’late you ’re a consid’ble big herb round here, you allus do, but set-fire! ef half a dezen o’ them same breed o’ ole she-divils bad lep’ atop o’ you when you was all soul alone by night-time, and jest once made out to bridle ye up in proper good shape, and then took and rid ye a little matter of eighteen or twenty mile through rain and slate and mud in a living gale o’ wind, a-proddin’ and clawin’ of ye stiddy the whole blame’ trip out and back, and givin’ of ye reg’lar ole bungo everyways they could hit on, I ’ll bate a pollock ’long of ary man here it’s a chance ef you wouldn’t come out on’t a damn sight lookin’er objict ’n what ole Skip’ Nate was that time! ”
George S. Wasson.