“Yet,” cried Louise, “he’s shipped on a sailing vessel, Uncle Amazon says. He’s gone for a voyage.”
“Ye-as. But has he?” Washy retorted, his head on one side and his rheumy old eyes looking up at her as sly as a ferret’s.
“What do you mean?”
“We none of us—none of the neighbors, I mean—seen him go. As fur’s we know he didn’t go away at all. We’re only taking his brother’s word for it.”
“Why, Mr. Gallup! You’re quite as bad as Betty. One would think to hear you and her talk that Cap’n Amazon was a fratricide.”
“That he had murdered his brother,” explained the girl.
“That’s fratter side, is it? Well, I don’t take no stock in such foolishness. Them’s Bet Gallup’s notions, Cap’n Am’zon’s all right, to my way o’ thinkin’. I was talkin’ about Cap’n Abe.”
“I do not understand you at all, then,” said the puzzled girl.
“I see you don’t just foller me,” he replied patiently. “I ain’t casting no alligators at your Uncle Am’zon. It’s Cap’n Abe. I doubt his goin’ to sea at all. I bet he never shipped aboard that craft his brother tells about.”
“Goodness! Why not?”
“‘Cause he ain’t a sea-goin’ man. There’s a few o’ such amongst Cape Codders. Us’ally they go away from the sea before they git found out, though.”
“‘Found out?’” the girl repeated with exasperation. “Found out in what?”
“That they’re scare’t o’ blue water,” Washy said decidedly. “Nobody ’round here ever seen Cap’n Abe outside the Haven. He wouldn’t no more come down here, push this skiff afloat, and row out to deep water than he’d go put his hand in a wild tiger’s mouth—no, ma’am!”
“Why, isn’t that very ridiculous?” Louise said, not at all pleased. “Of course Cap’n Abe shipped on that boat just as Cap’n Amazon said he was going to. Otherwise he would have been back—or we would have heard from him.”
“He did, hey?” responded Washy sharply, springing the surprise he had been leading up to. “Then why didn’t he take his chist with him? It’s come back to the Paulmouth depot, so Perry Baker says, it not being claimed down to Boston.”
A CHOICE OF CHAPERONS
Washy Gallup’s gossip should not have made much impression upon Louise Grayling’s mind, but it fretted her. Perhaps her recent interview with Aunt Euphemia had rasped the girl’s nerves. She left the old fisherman with a tart speech and returned to the store.
There were customers being waited upon, so she had no opportunity to mention the matter of Cap’n Abe’s chest to the substitute storekeeper at once. Then, when she had taken time to consider it, she decided not to do so.