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(Excerpt from "Denboro News of Interest" in the Ostable Weekly FLAG OF FREEDOM, April 2, 1838.)
"Another of Denboro's prominent citizens has returned to his native heath after braving the perils of the vasty deep. Captain Joshua Havens, commander of the ship Golden Eagle, arrived by the packet from Boston on Tuesday, having been absent from his home for more than a year. Captain Havens sailed from Bombay about seven months ago and reports the Golden Eagle as having made a good voyage, with fair weather for the first portion of the trip but with head winds and heavy seas off the Horn and a succession of severe gales during the run up the North Atlantic coast. Off Hatteras Captain Havens rescued the crew, officers and only passenger of the bark Sea Wind, New Orleans to Philadelphia, which had been dismasted and abandoned in a sinking condition two days before. Denboro is, as always, proud to welcome Captain Havens again to its midst, particularly as rumor hath it that the voyage just completed is to be his last, and that he is to settle down among us to enjoy a well-earned rest and the society of his charming and talented daughter, Miss Philura Havens, in their new mansion now nearing completion on the Creek Road. The addition to its permanent population of a man of influence and substance like Captain Joshua Havens is indeed a matter of congratulation for Denboro and in fact all Ostable County. Captain Havens"—etc., etc.
It may be inferred from the foregoing news item that the return to his native town of Captain Joshua Havens was an event. It was. The town numbered among its inhabitants goodness knew how many cabin boys, foremast hands, second mates and similar small salt water fry. Also at least twenty first mates and no less than sixteen full fledged captains of square-rigged vessels, the latter owned in Boston or New York or Philadelphia and coming and going from and to all sea-washed ports of the round world. Nevertheless, Denboro had but one Joshua Havens. His return was an event. Denboro knew it, so did Captain Joshua himself—so, too, did Miss Philura. They read the fulsome effervescings of the Flag of Freedom's local correspondent with neither a blush nor a smile; royalty had been paid customary and fitting homage, that was all.
The captain and his daughter faced each other across the breakfast table the morning after his return. Joshua—he was a widower—was fifty-five, florid, bearded and thickset. His manner was dignified, not to say pompous. Philura was twenty-five, slim, a trifle sharp-featured and wore her hair in ringlets, as was the fashion. They were discussing the rescue of the crew and passenger of the abandoned bark Sea Wind, the one out-of-the-ordinary incident of the captain's homeward voyage.
"Yes," said Joshua, leaning back in his chair, his left thumb hooked in the armhole of his flowered waistcoat, "this man Barclay was the only passenger aboard.
He and I got pretty well acquainted afore we made Boston light. A real nice fellow; what you might call a gentleman, well-off too, I judged. He is in the wallpaper trade; has a factory somewhere in Pennsylvania or Virginia, I believe. Seemed he'd been down to New Orleans, partly on business and partly for his health, and he took a return passage on the Sea Wind because the doctors seemed to calculate an ocean voyage would do him good. Naturally, after drifting around in that open boat for two nights and a day, he was terrible grateful to me for heaving to, in the sea there was running just then, and picking him and the rest up."
Miss Philura, poising her saucer of coffee daintily upon the tips of her fingers, shrugged a slim shoulder.
"Well, he ought to have been," she declared. "You saved his life, didn't yon?"
"That's what he kept vowing I did; vowed it over and over. Would have tried to pay me, if I'd let him."
"The idea! I hope you made him understand that you were not in the habit of taking pay for helping a fellow creature in distress."
"I did my best. I guess likely he gathered, from some things I said, that I had as hefty a shot in the locker as he had, Philury."
"Father! I do wish you would pronounce my name as it is spelled. I've told you so many times."
"Eh? Oh, all right, all right. Well, as I say, he and I got pretty chummy during the few days we had together and he told me consider'ble about his line of trade. Seems it is only lately that he's been making his own wall-papers. His cruise to New Orleans was partly on account of that. There's a lot of French folks down that way, you know, Philury—"
"Philu-ra! Please—oh, please!"
"Eh? Oh, sartin, sartin! Well, this Mr. Barclay has just made up in his factory a new pattern of paper copied after some of the old French patterns made on the other side. He got the notion that that kind of paper could be turned out right here in Yankeeland as well as amongst the frog-eaters, so he and his fo'mast hands in the factory had done some experimenting and he'd taken some samples of the new stuff with him on his trip, thinking maybe he might work up trade down South yonder. In the course of our talks he learned about the new house I'm building here in Denboro—"
"We are building, father. It is as much mine as yours."
"Sartin, daughter, so 'tis. He was interested in the house minute I mentioned it, and nothing would do but I must let him give me—give us paper enough to do the parlor in. He was so sot about it, Philu— Philura, that—"
"Sot! I suppose you mean he was determined."
"Maybe I do. He was pigheaded about it, I'll swear to that much, and the upshot of it was that I gave him the measures, nigh as I could remember 'em, and he is going to send us rolls enough to do that parlor with. Said it would be a real pleasure for him to feel that he had added a trifle to the charm and beauty of our new home. Those were the very words he used; had a sort of book fashion of talking, he did."
Miss Philura sniffed. "Well, I am sure I am much obliged to him," she observed, "but you must understand one thing, father: If I don't like that paper of his when it comes it is not going on the walls of my parlor. I intend to make that room just as in the mode and bon ton as I possibly can."
The conversation ended here and shortly afterward
Captain Havens went out for a walk. His stroll, of course, was in the direction of the Creek Road where, as reported in the Flag of Freedom, the new "mansion" was nearing completion. It was, for Denboro in those days, a large, roomy house, and the only fault Denboro had to find with it was its location. Why on earth Captain Josh was building such a house away off on that side road, with nothing to be seen from its windows except pine groves and sand and sky and water, was beyond local comprehension. The best homes in the village were along the main street where, at least, there was "something going on to look at."
Inside the new dwelling the carpenters were fitting the final trimmings. Captain Joshua watched them at their labors and acknowledged their reverential greetings with patronizing good humor. They were all residents of Denboro or neighboring towns and he was acquainted with them and their families. As he was turning to leave one of them—young Ephraim Bartlett—approached him and whispered his name.
"Er—Cap'n—Cap'n Joshua—" faltered the young man.
Joshua, on the threshold of the front door, turned.
"Eh?" he queried. "Oh, it's you, Eph! Wanted to say something, did you?"
Bartlett's sunburned face turned a deeper red. He fidgeted with the hammer in his hand. "Why—why, yes, Cap'n Josh—Cap'n Joshua, I mean," he stammered. "I—I did want to speak with you a minute if 'twouldn't be too much trouble. I know you're busy, but—"
The captain waved a gracious hand. Work on the house was progressing satisfactorily and he was in a gracious mood.
"Never too busy to talk to a Denboro man," he said. "What have you got on your mind, Bartlett? Come outside where we'll be alone, if you'd rather."
He led the way and young Bartlett followed him. On the lower of the new front steps Joshua paused.
"Well?" he queried.
Ephraim passed the hammer from one hand to the other.
"Cap'n Joshua," he stammered, "I—I don't know as you know it, but I'm cal'latin' to get married pretty soon."
The magnate smiled. "Good idea," he observed. "I believe in a young fellow's marrying early in life, steadies him down. Who is the lucky girl? Know her, do I?
Ephraim grinned bashfully. "Know her folks, I guess likely you do," he admitted. "She's a Cobb, from over on the East Denboro road."
"Oh, yes, yes! Nathaniel Cobb's daughter."
"No, sir, not them Cobbs. Her father is Peleg Cobb, goes coddin' to the Banks, he does. Her name's Matilda."
The Peleg Cobbs were of a lower social strata than the Nathaniel Cobbs. Captain Havens' nod was more perfunctory.
"Um-hm. All right," he grunted. "Well?"
"Why—why, I was thinkin' maybe you'd do a favor for me, Cap'n Joshua. A kind of—of money favor 'tis, you might say."
The Havens brows drew together. "Look here, young fellow," he said, bluntly, "are you figuring on marrying a wife and borrowing money at the same time? Because if you are—"
"No, no, I ain't," hastily. "I don't want to borrow
no money. It's the other way around, if anything. You see, Cap'n, I've been savin' up for a consider'ble spell and I've got about five hundred dollars put by. It ain't earnin' any interest and I kind of want to—well, invest it, sort of. I don't know nothin' about such things and of course you know 'most everything. So—so—"
"Oh, I see. You'd like to have me tell you what to do with your five hundred? Is that it?"
"Why, not exactly. My notion—mine and Matilda's —was that I should ask you to take charge of the five hundred and—er—well, kind of salt it down for us, you understand. All hands in town knows how you helped out Sarah Lathrop with her insurance money. Of course, Cap'n Joshua, we realize it's a good deal of a favor to ask, but—"
"Here, here! Lay to a minute. You want me to take your money and invest it for you, eh? Yes, yes. Any idea as to what sort of investment?"
"No, sir, nary one. Leave all that to you. Anything you see fit to pick out will suit us fine—and come out on top of the heap, too. You never made no investments that didn't come out that way. This whole town would bet its last cent on your judgment, Cap'n."
The flattery was pleasing to hear and the enthusiastic confirmation of Joshua Havens' own estimate of his business acumen gratifying. The great man smiled.
"All right, all right, Bartlett," he said. "I'll think it over and see what I can do. I'll be pretty busy for a fortni't or so, but after that you can hand me your five hundred and I'll give you a receipt for it. There, there, never mind thanking me. Glad to help a thrifty young fellow. Morning."
Joshua Havens' business took him to Boston for a greater part of the ensuing fortnight, and when he re-
turned home his daughter had news for him. Mr. Barclay's gift, the wall-paper for the parlor of the new house, had arrived from the Barclay factory and Miss Philura's opinion of it was emphatically expressed.
"Look at it, father," she commanded scornfully. "Just look at it! Did you ever see anything so horrible in all your born days? I wouldn't paper a barn with it, to say nothing of my best parlor. The man must be crazy to send us such rubbish. Either that or he couldn't get rid of it any other way and took you for a backwoods greenhorn who wouldn't know the difference. . . . Look!"
Joshua looked at the yard or two which she had unrolled for his inspection. It was a block print pattern —castles and cascades, and groups of figures in the costumes of the previous century. An imitation, and a good imitation, of an old-time French paper. He shook his head.
"Pretty old-fashioned, that's a fact," he admitted ruefully. "Don't look like the new stuff they're using nowadays, Philury, no it don't. Barclay, he meant well, I don't doubt, but—but—no, I guess likely you're right; we couldn't hardly put it up in a parlor like ours."
"Put it up! I should put it in the fire if I dared, and if there wasn't so much of it. Forty rolls, think of it! What will we do with it, father?"
The captain pulled at his beard.
"Humph!" he grunted. "Guess likely you'll have to stick it up attic for the present," he said. "Maybe I might sell it for a little something, I don't know."
"Sell it! No one but a born fool would buy it; even you must realize that."
"Well, the fools ain't all dead, even in Ostable County. Here, I'll take a sample along with me in case I run across one this forenoon."
He tore a two-foot strip from the end of the roll, folded it and stuffed it into his pocket. Miss Philura summoned the hired girl and proceeded to superintend the transfer of the Barclay thank-offering to the garret and her father strolled down to the new building on the Creek Road to inspect the work done there during his two weeks' absence.
His approval of that work was not as whole-hearted as it had been on former visits. Certain matters connected with financial and business ventures in Boston were troubling him a bit. At the banking house which handled the greater part of his money they were talking of hard times. One or two of his speculations had not flourished as well as he had hoped and expected. He was not greatly worried, but he was irritated and, consequently, was in a mood for dissatisfaction and fault-finding.
Therefore when, just as he was leaving, some one touched his sleeve and he turned to find Ephraim Bartlett standing at his elbow, his greeting was not over-cordial.
"Eh?" he grunted. "Oh, hello, Bartlett! Well, what do you want?"
Ephraim shifted from one foot to the other.
"Why—why, Cap'n Joshua," he stammered, "I— I've got that money all ready for you now."
"Eh? Money? What money?"
"That five hundred you was good enough to say you'd put out at interest for me and Matilda. I heard you was expected back to-day so I drawed it out of the savin's bank and fetched it down. I've got it right here
in my pocket-book, if you'd like to take it away with you."
Havens had forgotten all about the matter, nor was he enthusiastic when thus reminded.
"Humph!" he grumbled. "You're in a tearing hurry to get rid of it, ain't you? What's the matter; afraid you may spend it or something?"
Young Bartlett grinned sheepishly. "Why, no, sir," he said, "I ain't afraid of that. But the sooner it's in your hands and earnin' somethin' the better me and Matilda'll be pleased, that's all."
"Humph! . . . Well, all right; might as well take it now as any time, I suppose. Hand it over."
The young man dug into an inside pocket, drew forth a battered and swollen wallet and from it a bundle of banknotes tied around with a bit of fish line.
"There she is, Cap'n Josh," he said, triumphantly. "You can count it if you want to, but there's just five hundred there. I know because me and Matilda have counted it no less than four times, ourselves."
Captain Havens removed the cord from the roll and thumbed the bills.
"Five hundred is right," he said. "Well, I'll do the best I can for you, but it's your responsibility, not mine, remember. . . . Here, hold on! Don't you want a receipt?"
"Hey? Lord sakes, no! Don't need no receipts when I'm dealin' with anybody like you, Cap'n Joshua."
The captain regarded him with mingled irritation, contempt and pity.
"Young fellow," he observed, "you may be a good enough carpenter, but you're a darned poor business man. If you take my advice you'll never pay money to
a living soul without getting a receipt for it. ... Sho, I probably haven't got a mite of paper in my pocket. ... Eh? Yes, I have, too. This'll do as well as anything else."
The folded paper he took from his pocket was the sample of Mr. Barclay's wall-paper, that which had aroused the scornful contempt of Miss Philura. He tore off a liberal strip and wrote with a pencil upon the reverse side.
"There!" he said. " 'Received from Ephraim Bartlett $500.' That'll do, I guess. It's kind of a rough and ready receipt, but," with a grin at his own joke, "I guess likely it's worth the paper it's written on. Take it and hang onto it. That's my advice to you."
Ephraim carefully folded the strip and placed it in the battered wallet.
"By godfreys, Cap'n," he said, feelingly, "I can't tell you how much obliged Matilda and I be. We'll never forget it, and if we ever do get—er—rich or— or anything like that, we'll know 'twas you started us off."
"Humph!" grunted Joshua Havens, and walked away.
During the next twelve months Ephraim Bartlett and his bride-to-be spent many happy hours figuring the interest on five hundred dollars at five and six and even seven and eight per cent. And meanwhile the "hard times" became harder, banks failed, companies and partnerships went to smash and the country as a whole grew poorer and poorer. And one day announcement was made that the Boston firm of bankers handling Captain Joshua Havens' speculations and investments had gone down in complete ruin. A month or
two later Captain Joshua died of pneumonia, a brokenhearted bankrupt.
Nearly another year passed before his tangled estate was settled. The creditors—there were many of them—got very little. And so it happened that, late in the afternoon of a day in the following March, young Ephraim, now a married man, came home pushing a borrowed wheelbarrow.
"What on earth you got in there?" Mrs. Bartlett asked. Her husband sighed.
"All you and me will ever have to show for our five hundred dollars, I'm afraid, Matilda," he replied. "I've spent three more mortal hours with lawyer Simpkins, and he couldn't give me no encouragement. About everything really worth while is in Philury's name and she's goin' out of town to live; the story is she's goin' to be married to a New York man named Cutter—or Carver—or somethin' like that. Finally Mr. Simpkins showed me this mess of wall-paper. 'It's a match to that piece your receipt is wrote on, Eph,' he says, 'and though I ain't got any authority to do it, I'll let you have the whole forty rolls if you'll take it now and call everything square. You better,' says he, grinnin', 'it's all you'll ever get—and more'n most of 'em are gettin', at that.' So—well, I took it, and here 'tis."
He unrolled a section of the paper. "When Cap'n Josh give me that receipt," he added mournfully, "I remember his tellin' me he guessed 'twas worth the paper 'twas written on. It was, too—just about."
Matilda's pretty nose lifted. "And that's worth nothin'," she vowed in disgust. "I never saw such terrible lookin' stuff in my life. What did you expect I was likely to do with it, Eph Bartlett?"
Ephraim scratched his head.
"I don't know," he confessed.
"Neither do I. Well, well, carry it up attic or somewhere out of my sight. And then come down and eat your supper; you're half an hour late already."
(From the column of "Denboro Notes" in the Harniss EAGLE, September 14, 1927.)
"The boom in shore property in our flourishing and growing community continues to go on at a gratifying rate. Mr. Cornelius Matthews, our enterprising real estate dealer, reports having completed another important trade last week. The old Fairbanks property on the Bay Boulevard has been sold and, after extensive renovating and adding onto, is destined to take its place among Denboro's fine summer estates. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas H. Carver of New York City, who for the past summer have been guests of mine host Stephens at Salt Water Lodge, have bought the property and, so rumor hath it, will spend a lot of money fixing it up. All work on grounds and buildings will be done by local talent and completion is looked for about the first of next June. Your correspondent congratulates Mr. Matthews on his business enterprise and Denboro on its good fortune in adding Mr. and Mrs. Carver to the list of distinguished summer residents in its midst.
"The Fairbanks property is one of Denboro's landmarks. Its situation, away from the hurry and hustle of our main streets and fronting directly on the bay, is certainly fine and reflects credit upon the judgment of the original builder. The main body of the house is about a hundred years old and was designed and put up, so we have been able to learn, by one of Denboro's old captains of square-
rigged ships some time in the eighteen-thirties. Mrs. Solon Drew, our oldest inhabitant, when questioned by ye scribe, remembers that when she was a girl the old house was always called 'Josh's Folly,' although she cannot remember ever having heard why. It has changed hands a great many times in its history and its most recent owner was Sylvanus Fairbanks of South Denboro, who bought it in 1886 at a sheriff's sale for taxes. It has been unoccupied for the past ten years.
"Mr. Carver is the junior member of one of New York's leading banking firms. He is recently married and he and his charming young wife are delighted with Denboro and enthusiastic concerning the possibilities of their new summer home. Mr. Carver, in an interview with ye scribe, said it was particularly fitting that he should spend at least part of his time in this section of the country because some of his ancestors—his great grandfather, he believed—originally came from down this way. The house, when completed, is to be furnished with nothing but American antiques. Mrs. Carver is very fond of antiques and she says—" etc., etc.
The renovating and enlarging and restoring began promptly and progressed during the winter at the usual rate of—Denboro—speed. Consequently, on the first of June, 1928—the date originally set for completion—Mr. and Mrs. Tom Carver were moderately hopeful of moving in by the middle of August. Mrs. Carver came to Salt Water Lodge on May 20, and her husband journeyed over from New York for the week-ends. She spent a part of each day at their new property, watching and talking with the workmen there, and in consequence of one of these talks, Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Bradd, who resided in a tiny story-and-a-half cottage on the Back Road at Denboro
Neck, were, on a Saturday evening early in July, expecting callers.
Josiah Bradd was a wizened, nervous little man of sixty-three. He was a house painter and employed by Elmer Edwards who had the contract for painting the Carver house inside and out. Sarah, his wife, was a few years younger, plump, slow moving and placid. On this particular evening Josiah was wearing his Sunday suit and a white starched shirt and collar; therefore he was uncomfortable and looked it. Sarah was arrayed in her best black gown and wore her jet earrings and the brown "false front" which she donned for occasions.
The Bradds were preparing to receive their callers in the "best room." This room was small and furnished in the best—or worst—Victorian manner, with articles brought from the Bradd home in Ostable, from which village Josiah and his wife had moved three years before. A marble-topped walnut center table, a walnut "whatnot," a horsehair sofa and four wall chairs to match, a flowered ingrain carpet, a battered "Rogers' Group," a patent rocker which wailed mournfully when its occupant moved. Upon the walls hung four large oil paintings in gold frames. Mr. Bradd had conceived and perpetrated these paintings himself; had, as his wife proudly boasted, done them every bit by hand and out of his own head. They were "seascapes" and the waves in each were brilliantly blue, except where the white lead froth clung stickily to their crests.
Mrs. Bradd was seated in the patent rocker. Josiah sat bolt upright on one of the haircloth wall chairs. Occasionally one of them glanced at the imitation
marble clock on the mantel; Josiah had won that clock in a raffle at the Ostable Red Men's Fair in 1902.
"I snum I don't believe they're comin' at all," said Mrs. Bradd, with a sigh. "Did that Mrs. Carver say they really would, or only that they might?"
"Wan't no 'might' about it, Sarah. It's just as I told you. She's been after me much as half a dozen times to know if you and me hadn't any old furniture or lookin'-glasses or dishes or any old thing we was willin' to sell. Yesterday, after you had decided that we might sell the chair, I told her about it. She was all excited in a jiffy. 'Mr. Carver will be here in the mornin'," says she, 'and he and I will come down to your house tomorrow evenin' and look at it.' Well, to-night's tomorrow evenin', ain't it? They'll come, Sarah, don't you fret."
Mrs. Bradd sighed again. "I do hate to part with that chair," she said. "If it wasn't that we need money so! With that big doctor's bill and the rest—"
"I know, Sarah, I know."
"Josiah, do you think likely they will buy it? Do you suppose it's the kind of thing they want?"
"It's old, ain't it?"
"Well, it was one of our weddin' presents. That ain't so terrible old."
"We've been married forty-one year, Sarah. We ain't exactly spring chickens, and that chair ain't neither. I cal'late they'll buy it all right. Don't see why they wouldn't; you don't see a chair like that one very often."
"Josiah, are you goin' to say anything about that other stuff you found up attic? There's a piece of it over on the whatnot now. It's old too, you know—a sight older than the chair."
Her husband shook his head. "Nobody would use that kind of stuff nowadays—if they ever did, which I doubt. You argued with me that it was uglier than sin."
"Yes, so 'tis. I presume likely that's why it never was used or never sold. Where do you suppose it ever came from?"
"Mercy knows! It was in that loft of your father's store when he took it over from your grandfather; I remember seein' it there when I was a little shaver, playin' hide and hoot."
"Grandfather bought it at some auction most likely. I remember grandmother's tellin' me that he was a great hand to buy things at auctions. Then he'd put what he bought up in the store loft and there 'twould stay forever and ever, just as like as not. I recollect— Sshh! I heard an automobile. . . . Yes, it's them; they're comin'! Fix your necktie, Josiah; it's slipped off the button. Why didn't you tell me that elastic was all stretched out?"
Fumbling frantically at the tie, Mr. Bradd hastened to answer the knock at the front door. A moment later he reappeared ushering in Mr. and Mrs. Tom Carver and a third person, a dapper, middle-aged man whose name, it appeared, was Francis Faverly. He was, as Carver explained, a friend who had come over with him from New York for the week-end.
Josiah introduced the trio to his wife.
"Now don't you get up, Sarah," he protested, as she made a move to rise from the patent rocker. "You stay right where you be; doctor's orders, you know. . . . She ain't been very well lately," he added, turning to his callers. "She gets tired awfully easy and so—"
"There, there!" broke in Mrs. Bradd, good-
humoredly. "Don't worry strangers with my ailments. 'Tain't likely they're interested in 'em and I'm sartin' sure I'm ashamed of havin' 'em, a great fleshy woman like me. ... Sit clown, sit down everybody—now do. It's real nice of you all to cruise way down to the Neck here, 'tis so."
The Carvers sat upon the haircloth sofa and Faverly and Josiah upon the haircloth chairs. Young Mrs. Carver gazed about the crowded room—at the carpet, the marble-topped table, particularly at the paintings on the wall. She tucked a brown curl under the brim of a particularly becoming hat and glanced at her husband. He, too, had been inspecting the paintings and, as his eyes met hers, they both looked hastily away again. As for the elegant Mr. Faverly, his expression, as he looked about the room and its furnishings, was one of acute distress.
"Well," went on Sarah who, as hostess, evidently felt that it was her duty to open the conversation, "we've been havin' real nice weather lately, ain't we? Josiah—my husband, I mean—says it's been fine for paintin'. I hope you like the work he's doin' on your new place, Mrs. Carver. He's a wonderful hand with a brush, if I do say so. I don't know as you'll believe it, but he done those oil pictures up there every one his own self."
Mabel Carver said that the pictures were remarkable. Tom Carver said they were marvelous. Mr. Faverly said nothing and Carver, after a mischievous glance at his face, drew the company's attention to him.
"Mr. Faverly is a connoisseur of art and antiques," he said; and added. "How do these paintings strike you, Frank?"
The connoisseur drew a long breath.
"They are—er—unique," he replied, with feeling. Then he fixed his gaze upon the whisk broom with the gilded handle, which hung on a black velvet square beneath the mantel, and shuddered.
Mrs. Carver hastily resumed discussion of the weather. From that the conversation wandered to the prospects of the fall cranberry crop, the unusual price of eggs and finally drifted back to the subject of Mrs. Bradd's ill health.
"Sarah, she ain't been up to time since we moved over from Ostable a couple of year ago," said Josiah, regarding his helpmate anxiously. "Things have been runnin' kind of against the wind for her and me for quite a spell. You see, Mr. Carver, we lived in Ostable most of our lives. I kept store there, one of them general stores 'twas. Took over the business from Sarah's father, who had had it from his father. He was a Denboro man, come to think of it, in the beginnin'. Was a carpenter or somethin' when he was young, but—"
"Josiah—there, there! They don't want to hear all that."
"Hey? No, I presume likely they don't. What started me again? Oh, yes, 'twas your bein' so kind of feeble, Sarah. You see," turning again to the Carvers, "the doctor thinks she'd be a whole lot better if she could go somewheres for a change and rest. Stay a month, he says she ought to, and just do nothin' but look at new scenery. He seems to cal'late the White Mountains would be pretty fine."
"I've always been crazy to go to the White Mountains," observed Sarah, longingly. "They've always sounded about like heaven to me. I guess you'll think that sounds funny, Mrs. Carver, but I've never seen a
real live mountain in my life. . . . There! now I know you'll laugh!"
Mrs. Carver did not laugh. "But the White Mountains are not so very far away," she said.
The Bradds looked at each other. It was Josiah who spoke. "Not by miles,—no," he admitted. "But measured by dollars it's a long, long ways for us just now. If she'd go without me, why maybe—"
"Don't be silly, Josiah! You need change and rest full as much as I do. You know it."
Faverly broke into the conversation.
"Let me see," he observed, "wasn't there a—er— chair or something that you were interested in, Tom?"
Josiah sprang to his feet. "Yes, yes, of course," he exclaimed. "Sartin sure there was! That's what you cruised way down here for, wasn't it; not to hear me string along my troubles. It's out in the back room; I'll go fetch it."
He hastened out. Mabel Carver took the chair he had just vacated and entered into a low-toned conversation with Sarah Bradd. Tom Carver shifted his position on the haircloth sofa in the vain attempt to find comfort where there was none. Mr. Faverly strolled over to the whatnot in the corner and began examining the articles upon it.
Sounds of bumping and smothered exclamations heralded Josiah's approach from the back room. He appeared, bearing a huge misshapen object covered with a sheet.
"Just shove some of them other things out of the way, will you, somebody please," he panted, from the rear of his burden. "I've got to set this down pretty quick or it and me's liable to set down together."
Carver hastily moved the haircloth chairs, and Mr.
Bradd, with a grunt of relief, deposited the sheet-covered object on the floor between the sofa and the table. Then he stepped back and drew a hand across his forehead.
"There she is!" he proclaimed. "And she ain't no hollow sham, neither. There's wood in that piece of furniture—hard wood and plenty of it."
His wife regarded him with trouble in her eyes. "You rest yourself now, Josiah Bradd," she commanded. "You'd think he was twenty-five instead of sixty odd, the way he persists in luggin' and liftin' and hurryin'. Talk about rest! I don't know anybody that needs rest more than he does and takes less of it. If he'd only think about himself once in a while and less about me, I'd be a happier woman."
"Sshh, shh, old lady! I'm all right. . . . Now, Mr. Carver, afore you or your wife look at this chair I want to tell you just a word about it. That chair was one of our weddin' presents. I was keepin' store over to Ostable, same as I told you, and some of the fellows that used to hang around there evenin's they made up their minds to give Sarah and me a present. So they turned to, the whole lot of 'em, and made this chair. And 'twas some present, too; you'll say so when you see it. That's so, ain't it, Sarah?"
Mrs. Bradd nodded. "I—I can't tell you how we hate to part with it, Mrs. Carver," she said, with a tremble in her voice. "If it wasn't so big that we haven't any fittin' place for it, I don't believe we ever would. You see—"
Faverly, who was still standing by the whatnot, broke in with a question.
"I say, Mr.—er—Bradd," he inquired, suddenly. "What is this?"
Every one turned to look at him. He held a partially opened roll of paper in his hand. The back of the roll was white, but on the other side were pictures, a castle, a cascade, trees and two or three figures in old-fashioned costumes.
Josiah recognized it. "Oh," he said, with a laugh, "that's nothin' but some old wall-paper I found up garret when I was after this chair. There's a whole passel of it; must have been stored up in the loft of the store in Ostable, been there since Sarah's grandfather's time, I guess likely. Homelier than a bob-tailed pullet, ain't it, Mr. Faverly? I fetched that piece down to show my wife. Now, Mr. Carver—"
But Faverly asked another question.
"There is more of it, you say? How much more?"
"Hey? Oh, I don't know. Thirty-odd rolls anyhow—maybe forty."
Mabel Carver's impatience could be restrained no longer.
"The chair!" she cried. "Oh, do let us see the chair, Mr. Bradd!"
Josiah laid hold of the corner of the sheet with the air of a conjuror about to perform the trick of the evening. "Stand by!" he ordered, with enthusiasm. "One—two—three! And there she is!... What do you say to that for a piece of furniture? Eh?"
No one said anything immediately. Tom Carver stared at the monstrosity revealed by the snatching away of the sheet, stared, choked and then turned toward his wife. Mabel Carver stared, caught her breath, and, for a moment, looked as if she were going to cry. Mr. Faverly looked, made a peculiar sound in his throat, and, turning his back upon the party, resumed examination of the roll of wall-paper.
As for the Bradds, they were bending forward, regarding the chair with reverent affection. Sarah furtively wiped her eyes with her handkerchief before venturing to speak.
"Oh, Josiah," she breathed, "I didn't realize how wonderful it was! I—I'd forgot, I guess."
Her husband nodded. "Well, you see now what I meant, Mr. Carver," he said. "Don't believe you ever see a chair just like that afore, now did you?"
Carver's answer was emphatic.
"I certainly never did," he agreed.
"Nor you neither, ma'am, I guess?"
"I cal'lated you'd say so. Look at it. You wouldn't believe the bulk of it was made out of a sugar hogshead, now would you? 'Tis though. And look at the carvin' along the top. The fellow that did that wan't a reg'lar carver by trade, neither. No, sir, he went rnack'rel seinin' springs and summers. And see the colors on them cushions. Ain't faded hardly a mite. Bright as new, you might say."
"Oh, not quite," protested Sarah. "They were ever so much brighter than that once. Doesn't seem hardly possible, though, does it, Mr. Carver?"
"No. ... No, it doesn't."
"Well, there! I guess likely we've shown off enough. You can understand, though," wistfully, "why we hate to sell it."
Mrs. Carver hoped she saw an opportunity.
"You shouldn't sell it," she declared, hastily. "You really mustn't. We couldn't think of depriving you of it."
"No depravity, as the fellow said," insisted Josiah. "Long as somebody's got to have it, Sarah and me are
glad it's goin' to you. Glad you like it, that's the main thing."
Again the Carvers looked at each other. They seemed to prefer that to looking at the chair. At last Tom made another desperate attempt to avert the inevitable.
"I'm afraid it may be too expensive for us," he ventured. "How much—er—do you consider it worth, Mr. Bradd?"
Josiah rubbed his chin. "Well, I—I, well, Sarah and me didn't know just what to say. It's old—and old things fetch big prices nowadays. Do you cal'late fifty dollars would be too much?"
Mabel, quite as desperate as her husband, sprang to the rescue.
"Why, yes, I am afraid it is," she said. "Not for the chair itself, you understand; but—well, we really don't need another large chair; do we, Tom?"
"No. I'm sorry, Mr. Bradd, but that's a fact, we don't."
The Bradds were disappointed, very much so. The disappointment showed in their faces, but Sarah's smile was brave and her tone cheerful.
"Well, now, that's all right," she observed. "If you don't need it you surely hadn't ought to take it. Perhaps," with a doubtful glance at her husband, "we might shade that price just a little, mightn't we, Josiah? Five dollars, say?"
Josiah nodded. "Yes indeed," he answered. "If forty-five is nigher right—"
Mr. Faverly interrupted once more, thereby earning the profound gratitude of the Carver family.
"Er—Mr. Bradd," he said, "did I understand you
to say there were forty rolls of this paper in your garret?"
"Hey?... Why, yes, that or thereabouts. ... Oh, you ain't goin' so soon, are you, Mrs. Carver? Don't hurry. Never mind about the chair, that's all right; stay and visit with us a little longer, won't you? Sarah and me appreciate your takin' all the trouble to come way down here. It was real good of you to do it. ... Well, if you must you must, I suppose. . . . Come again sometime. Good-night."
The Carver car was standing in the road by the gate and its owners and Faverly were about to enter it, when Mrs. Carver remembered she had left her fur neckpiece in the Bradd front room. She sprang out and hurried back. As she passed the window by the door she heard a voice within. It was Josiah's voice and he was speaking earnestly.
"There, there, Sarah," she heard him say, "you mustn't cry. 'Tain't worth cryin' over. We'll get along all right, you see."
"But, oh, Josiah, I'm so disappointed. I thought a way had been provided for us to pay that doctor's bill, and now—"
"Sshh—shh! We'll pay it yet, don't you fret."
When Mrs. Carver returned to the automobile with the neckpiece she was silent and silent she remained during the ride home. It was not until the car had drawn up before the door of the hotel that she spoke. Then she said:
"Yes, my dear."
"I bought it."
"Bought it? Bought what? ... Eh? Good lord! Not that horrible chair?"
"Yes. I paid fifty dollars for it and it is to be delivered Monday morning. ... Stop! Don't either of you ask me a single question. I won't answer if you do. I don't want to talk to anybody."
Tom Carver's week-end stay was a day longer than usual this time. He was to remain in Denboro until Monday night. Francis Faverly, however, took the train, that connecting with the Fall River boat, on Sunday afternoon. He seemed to his hosts rather absent-minded and noncommunicative all that forenoon and went out for a walk about ten, apparently not having heard Tom's offer to accompany him. When Mrs. Carver asked him where he had been his answer was peculiar. "Oh, just around and about," he said, and that was all.
Monday, just before lunch, the local express truck drove up to the back platform of Salt Water Lodge. Mrs. Carver, looking from her window, saw the huge, sheet-swathed bulk in the wagon and groaned.
"Oh, dear," she wailed. "They have brought it here, of all places! What shall we ever do with it! I—I almost wish I hadn't been so soft-hearted. No, I don't either," defiantly; "I'm glad."
"Telephone call for you, Mr. Carver," announced the porter, putting his head in at the door. "Long distance, it sounds like. Where will you have this—er— monument put? It's about as big as Bunker Hill."
Carver hastened downstairs to the telephone booth. The call was from New York and the conversation over the wire detained him for fifteen minutes. When he rushed upstairs and into his wife's room he was very much excited.
"That was Frank Faverly," he announced. "And say, by George, what do you suppose he told me ? . . .
Oh!" as he saw the object in the middle of the floor. "They have parked the white elephant, I see."
Mabel was reading a letter. It had been pinned to the sheet covering the chair. She looked up from her reading and her expression was peculiar.
"White elephants seem to travel in droves," she said. "We bought one and we have been presented with another. For goodness sake, read that!"
Carver took the letter she handed him. It was written in a neat, old-time hand and ran as follows:
"Dear Mrs. Carver:
"Here is the chair. Ever since you came back here Saturday night and said you had decided to buy it Josiah and me have been a little mite worried. You see, we can't help thinking you did not really care much for it, but just took it because you was afraid we would be disappointed if you did not. If that is so, please, please do not keep it. Send it right back and everything will be all right. We are sending something else along with it and we should like for you and your husband to take it as a present from us. It is that old wall-paper stuff, the forty rolls that was up in our attic. We should never have thought of giving you nor anybody else such homely, old-fashioned trash, but your friend Mr. Faverly came down to see us yesterday and he seemed to take quite a shine to it. He wanted us to give him what he called an option on it until the end of the week. Said it might be worth a dollar or two maybe, and if he found out it was he would send us a check. We did not promise him anything and me and Josiah talked it over and, guessing as we do how you really feel about our chair, we have packed the forty rolls in under the sheet and are sending it to you. If it is worth a couple of dollars to Mr. Faverly perhaps it may be worth that much to you and Mr. Carver. If it is, keep it with our good wishes and
compliments. If it is not just throw it away. And anyhow, thank you both ever and ever so much.
"Sarah M. Bradd."
Mrs. Carver watched her husband as he read. Then she laughed.
"So you see what I mean by another white elephant," she said. "Why—why, Tom! Why do you look so queer?"
Tom Carver breathed heavily. "White elephant!" he gasped. "Faverly just called me up from New York. You remember he seemed interested in that roll of paper he found on the Bradds' whatnot? Yes; well, he was evidently very much interested. We didn't know it, and I presume the Bradds didn't, but he tore off a piece of that paper and took it to New York with him. He has just 'phoned me to buy all of it for him at the best bargain I can make. He says it is one of the rarest specimens of early American wall-paper known. The roll he examined has the maker's name—Barclay, I believe it is—printed on the back. He says forty rolls of that paper, unused and in such a condition, is almost priceless. He ordered me to offer the Bradds ten dollars for the lot, but to keep on bidding to as high as five hundred. He says it is worth a whole lot more than that. He took pains to add that, as the Bradds evidently considered it worth nothing, I could probably get it for the first bid—ten dollars. . . . What do you think of that!"
Mrs. Carver's cheeks were pale. She and her husband looked at each other.
"Tom," she said, almost in a whisper, "they—they have given it to you and me."
"What! ... By George, so they have!"
"But they—they haven't any idea of its worth. And if it is worth five hundred dollars—"
"We can't take it from them, you mean? Of course we can't."
"But—but, Tom; if it is so wonderful—as wonderful as Frank Faverly says—"
"It is a lot more wonderful, if he says so. I know him."
"Then—then why wouldn't it be just the thing for our new living-room? It would—" her eyes were shining—"it would make that room a perfect marvel. . . . Oh, Tom!"
Her husband was thinking. He nodded emphatically.
"You may be right, Mabel," he declared. "We'll look it over carefully, of course. And I will take one of the rolls back to New York with me for examination and appraisal by a good dealer in such things. And if it is the real goods—if it is worth five hundred dollars—"
"Yes?... Yes? Go on."
"Why—why—well, now, see here: Just because Faverly is next door to a crook when it comes to antiques that's no reason why we should be. If it's worth five hundred to him it is to us—yes, and to those Bradd people, by George! If we keep it we'll pay the price for it. I should feel like a robber if I did anything else."
Mrs. Carver threw her arms about his neck.
"Oh, Tom!" she cried, rapturously, "you are a dear! And now—oh, don't you see!—they can go to the White Mountains, can't they?"
(From "Denboro Notes" in the Harniss eagle, August 20, 1928.)
"Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Carver will move into their new summer home some time next week. The house, both inside and out, is one of the finest specimens of Colonial architecture and furnishings in Ostable County. Ye scribe, on behalf of Denboro in general, congratulates Mr. and Mrs. Carver," etc., etc.
"Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Bradd, who reside on the Neck Road in East Denboro, are leaving Monday for a sojourn in the White Mountains."
The Carvers were standing in the center of their new living-room, surveying it and its furnishings. Mabel Carver was rapturously delighted with her old furniture and glass and ancient ornaments and knickknacks, and Tom Carver was delighted because she was. Particularly were they enthusiastic concerning the wallpaper.
"It is wonderful!" cried Mrs. Carver. "Perfectly wonderful. I knew it was bound to be perfect, but I didn't realize until now, when I see it on the walls, how absolutely right it is. Why—why, Tom, dear, it looks—it looks as if it was made for this very house and this room, as if it were intended to be here and nowhere else."
Josiah Bradd had returned from the railroad sta-
tion, whither he had gone to buy tickets for Maple Hill, N. H. He found his wife even more excited than when he went out, which was superfluous.
"Josiah," she cried, as soon as he opened the door, "just see what I've found. I was up attic, huntin' through all the old trunks and chests up there, and—"
Mr. Bradd interrupted.
"It's a mighty good thing I'm goin' to get you out of this house, Sarah," he observed, with conviction. "Why do you keep racin' to that attic? Didn't the doctor say that climbin' stairs was about the worst thing you could possibly do?"
"I know, I know, Josiah; but ever since we found that wall-paper up there I couldn't help wonderin' if there mightn't be some other wonderful antique hid around that we didn't know about. Well, I didn't find any, of course, but in an old trunk with grandfather's name on the lid, I found a whole passel of old letters and papers tied up with string. And amongst 'em was this."
Josiah took the paper she handed him. He adjusted his spectacles and read aloud.
" 'Received from Ephraim Bartlett $500.' " he read. "Signed, Joshua Havens. No date and wrote in pencil. ... Well, what of it? It's about a thousand year old more or less, by the look of it."
"Yes, but turn it over. Look at the back. The back is the queer thing about it."
Her husband turned the strip of paper over.
"What!" he exclaimed. "Why, good lord! This looks—I vow it looks like a piece of that very wall paper we sold to the Carvers. It looks like it."
"It is like it—just like it. It's a piece of that very paper. Isn't it strange, Josiah?"
"Humph! Strange enough, that's a fact. Well, who was Joshua Havens?"
"I don't know. Somebody that died long afore your day and mine, of course. But Ephraim Bartlett was my own grandfather. And five hundred dollars—just five hundred! That's the oddest part of it all. Just the very amount we got for the rest of that very paper." Josiah chuckled. "Say," he observed, "you'd be speakin' pretty close to the truth if you said this receipt thing was worth the paper 'twas written on. . . . Ha, ha! Eh, Sarah?"
"Yes," absently. "Oh, dear! I wish you and I might know the whole story, don't you? There is a story, I'm sure of it."
posted June 2004 at CapeCodHistory.us