“Shipped before the mast?” exploded Cap’n Joab.
“Well,” Cap’n Amazon returned sensibly, “if you were skipper about where would you expect a lubber like Abe Silt to fit into your crew?”
“I swanny, that’s so!” agreed Cap’n Joab. “But it’s goin’ to be hard lines for a man of his years—and no experience.”
Cap’n Amazon sniffed. “I guess he’ll get along,” he said, seemingly less disturbed by his brother’s plight than other people. “Three months of summer sailin’ won’t do him no harm.”
That he was under fire he evidently felt, and resented it. His brother’s old neighbors and friends desired to know altogether too much about his business and that of Cap’n Abe. He told Louise before night:
“I tell you what, Abe’s got the best of it! If I’d knowed I was goin’ to be picked to pieces by a lot of busybodies the way I be, I’d never agreed to stay by the ship till Abe got back. No, sir! These folks around here are the beatenest I ever see.”
Yet Louise noticed that he seemed able to hold his own with the curious ones. His tongue was quite as nimble as Cap’n Abe’s had been. On the day of her arrival, Lou Grayling had believed she would be amused at Cardhaven. Ere the second twenty-four hours of her stay were rounded out, she knew she would be.
SOMETHING ABOUT SALT WATER TAFFY
During the day Cap’n Amazon and Amiel Perdue carried Louise’s trunks upstairs and into the storeroom, handy to her own chamber. It seems Cap’n Amazon had not brought his own sea chest; only a “dunnage bag,” as he called it.
“But there’s plenty of Abe’s duds about,” he said; “and we’re about of a size.”
When Louise went to unpack her trunks she found a number of things in the storeroom more interesting even than her own pretty summer frocks. There were shells, corals, sea-ivory—curios, such as are collected by seamen the world over. Cap’n Abe was an indefatigable gatherer of such wares. There was a green sea chest standing with its lid wide open, tarred rope handles on its ends, that may have been around the world a score of times. It was half filled with old books.
All the dusty, musty volumes in the chest seemed to deal with the sea and sea-going. Many of them, long since out of print and forgotten, recounted strange and almost unbelievable romances of nautical life—stories of wrecks, fires, battles with savages and pirates, discoveries of lone islands and marvelous explorations in lands which, since the date of publication, have become semi-civilized or altogether so.
Here were narratives of men who had sailed around the world in tiny craft like Captain Slocum; stories of seamen who had become chiefs of cannibal tribes, like the famous Larry O’Brien; several supposedly veracious narratives of the survivors of the Bounty; stories of Arctic and Antarctic discovery and privation. There were also several scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings of nautical wonders—many of these clipped from New Bedford and Newport papers which at one time were particularly rich in whalers’ yarns.