That evening, long after supper and after the store lights were out, and while Cap’n Amazon and Louise were sitting as usual in the room behind the store, a hasty step on the porch and a rat-tat-tat upon the side door announced a caller than whom none could have been more unexpected.
“Aunt Euphemia!” cried Louise, when the master mariner ushered the lady in. “What has happened?”
“Haven’t you heard? Did you not get a letter?” demanded Mrs. Conroth. But she kept a suspicious eye on the captain.
“From daddy-prof?” exclaimed Louise, jumping up.
“Yes. Mailed at Gibraltar. Nothing has happened to that vessel he is on. That was all a ridiculous story. But there is something else, Louise.”
“Sit down, ma’am,” Cap’n Amazon was saying politely. “Do sit down, ma’am.”
“Not in this house,” declared the lady, with finality. “I do not feel safe here. And it’s not safe for you to be here, Louise, with this—this man. You don’t know who he is; nobody knows who he is. I have just heard all about it from one of the—er—natives. Mr. Abram Silt never had a brother that anybody in Cardhaven ever saw. There is no Captain Amazon Silt—and never was!”
“Oh!” gasped Louise.
“Nor does your father say a word in his letter to me about Abram Silt being with him aboard that vessel, the Curlew. Nobody knows what has become of your uncle—the man who really owns this store. How do we know but that this—this creature,” concluded Aunt Euphemia, with dramatic gesture, “has made away with Mr. Silt and taken over his property?”
“It ’ud be jest like the old pirate!” croaked a harsh voice from the kitchen doorway, and Betty Gallup appeared, apparently ready to back up Mrs. Conroth physically, as well as otherwise.
That hour in the old-fashioned living-room behind Cap’n Abe’s store was destined to be marked indelibly upon Louise Grayling’s memory. Aunt Euphemia and Betty Gallup had both come armed for the fray. They literally swept Louise off her feet by their vehemence.
The effect of the challenge on Cap’n Amazon was most puzzling. As Mrs. Conroth refused to sit down—she could talk better standing, becoming quite oracular, in fact—the captain could not, in politeness, take his customary chair. And he had discarded his pipe upon going to the door to let the visitor in.
Therefore, it seemed to Louise, the doughty captain seemed rather lost. It was not that he displayed either surprise or fear because of Aunt Euphemia’s accusation. Merely he did not know what to do with himself during her exhortation.
The fact that he was taxed with a crime—a double crime, indeed—did not seem to bother him at all. But the clatter of the women’s tongues seemed to annoy him.
His silence and his calmness affected Mrs. Conroth and Betty Gallup much as the store idlers had been affected when they tried to bait him—their exasperation increased. Cap’n Amazon’s utter disregard of what they said (for Betty did her share of the talking, relieving the Lady from Poughkeepsie when she was breathless) continued unabated. It was a situation that, at another time, would have vastly amused Louise.