Washy Gallup’s gossip—his doubt regarding Cap’n Abe’s shipping on a sea voyage—now came home to Louise with force. Washy suggested that the storekeeper was afraid of the sea; that in all his years at Cardhaven he had never been known to venture out of the quiet waters of the bay.
To the girl’s mind, too, came the remembrance of that talk she had had with Cap’n Abe on the evening of her arrival at the store. Was there something he had said then that explained this mystery?
He had told her of the wreck of the Bravo and the drowning of Captain Joshua Silt, his father, in sight of his mother’s window. She had been powerfully affected by that awful tragedy; this could not be doubted.
And the son, Cap’n Abe, a posthumous child, might indeed have come into the world with that horror of the sea which must have filled his poor mother’s soul.
“It would explain why Uncle Abram never became a sailor—the only Silt for generations who remained ashore. Yet, he spoke that night as though he loved the sea—or the romance of it, at least,” Louise thought.
“Perhaps, too, his own inability to sail to foreign shores and his terror of the sea made him so worship Cap’n Amazon’s prowess. For they say he was continually relating stories of his brother’s adventures—even more marvelous tales than Cap’n Amazon himself has related.
“Such a misfortune as Cap’n Abe’s fear of the sea may easily explain his brother’s good-natured scorn of him. Uncle Amazon doesn’t say much about him; but I can see he looks upon Cap’n Abe as a weakling.
“But,” sighed the girl in conclusion, “even this does not explain the mystery of the chest, or where Cap’n Abe can be hiding. I wonder if Uncle Amazon knows?”
As on previous occasions, Louise Grayling was deterred from putting a searching question to Cap’n Amazon because of his look and manner. The little she had seen of Cap’n Abe assured her that she would have felt no hesitancy in approaching the mild-mannered storekeeper upon any subject.
But the master mariner seemed to be an entirely different personality. The way he had overawed the idlers in the store that afternoon when the old chest was broken open, and his refusal to make any further explanation of Cap’n Abe’s absence, pinched out Louise’s courage as one might pinch out a candle wick.
That suspicion was rife in the community, and that the story of the strange contents of Cap’n Abe’s chest had spread like a prairie fire, Louise was sure. Yet at supper time Cap’n Amazon was as calm and cheerful as usual and completely ignored the accident of the afternoon.
“Hi-mighty likely mess of tautog you caught, Louise,” he said, ladling the thick white gravy dotted with crumbly yellow egg yolk upon her plate with lavish hand. “That Lawford Tapp knows where the critters school, if he doesn’t know much else.”