WHAT HAPPENED IN THE NIGHT
Cap’n Abe produced a pipe. He looked at his niece tentatively. “Do—do you mind tobacker smoke?”
“Daddy-prof is an inveterate,” she laughed.
“Huh? An—an invet’rate what?”
“Smoker. I don’t begrudge a man smoking tobacco as long as we women have our tea. A nerve tonic in both cases.”
“I dunno for sure that I’ve got any nerves,” Cap’n Abe said, the corners of his eyes wrinkling. “Mebbe I was behind the door when they was given out. But a pipeful o’ tobacker this time o’ the evening does seem sort o’ satisfyin’. That, and knittin’.”
Having filled his pipe and lit it, he puffed a few times to get it well alight and then reached for a covered basket that Louise had noticed on a small stand under Jerry’s cage. He drew from this a half-fashioned gray stocking that was evidently intended for his own foot and the needles began to click in his strong, capable hands.
“Supprise you some, does it, Louise?” Cap’n Abe said. “Cap’n Am’zon taught me. Most old whalers knit. That, an’ doin’ scrimshaw work, was ‘bout all that kep’ ’em from losing their minds on them long v’y’ges into the Pacific. An’ I’ve seen the time myself when I was hi-mighty glad I’d l’arned to count stitches.
“Land sakes! Some o’ them whalin’ v’y’ges lasted three-four years. Cap’n Am’zon was in the old bark Neptune’s Daughter when she was caught in the ice and drifted pretty average close’t to the south pole.
“You know,” said Cap’n Abe reflectively, “the Antarctic regions ain’t like the Arctic. ’Cause why? There ain’t no folks there. Cap’n Am’zon says there ain’t ’nough land at the south pole to make Marm Scudder’s garden—and they say she didn’t need more’n what her patchwork quilt would cover. Where there’s land there’s folks. And if there was land in the Antarctic there’d be Eskimos like there is up North.
“’Hem! Well, that wasn’t what I begun on, was it? This knitting. Cap’n Am’zon says that many’s the time he’s thanked his stars he knowed how to knit.”
“I shall be glad to meet him,” said Louise.
“If he comes,” Cap’n Abe rejoined, “an’ I go away as I planned to, ‘twon’t make a mite o’ difference to you, Niece Louise. You feel right at home here—and so’ll Cap’n Am’zon, though he ain’t never been to Cardhaven yet. He’ll be a lot better company for you than I’d be.”
“Oh, Cap’n Abe, I can scarcely believe that!” cried the girl.
“You don’t know Cap’n Am’zon,” the storekeeper said. “I tell ye fair: he’s ev’rything that I ain’t! As a boy—’hem!—Am’zon was always leadin’ an’ me follerin’. I kinder took after my mother, I guess. She was your grandmother. Your grandfather was a Card—and a nice man he was.
“Our father—me an’ Am’zon’s—was Cap’n Joshua Silt of the schooner Bravo. Hi-mighty trim and taut craft she was, from all accounts. I—I warn’t born when he died,” added Cap’n Abe, hesitatingly.