Solemnly the captain wiped his brow. “I declare I wish Abner could hear it,” he remarked proudly. “There ain’t a single mistake, big words an’ all. It ought to please M’lissy, if anything will.”
At the thought of Melissa Captain Enoch’s honest heart began to beat faster. He threw open his window with all the eagerness of a lover, and looked over toward Melissa’s old-fashioned house with its comfortable veranda and wide chimney.
His bronzed face turned suddenly white and he gripped the window sill with all the strength of his powerful hands. Two men were turning in at Melissa’s gate. The short fat man was Thomas Peters, the tall thin one the village clergyman. To Captain Enoch the fact that Peters and the minister were calling upon Melissa together could mean but one thing. Hours and years of the captain’s life seemed to pass, as he watched the two men go slowly up Melissa’s gravel walk. When the door closed behind them, he turned about, dazed and trembling. He was breathing hard like a man at the end of a race. Half an hour later he had packed his bag and paid his board bill, leaving Mrs. Crowell in a state of bewilderment and curiosity that was sufficient to disturb her peace of mind for many a day.
From Boston the tramp had wallowed her way around the Horn to San Francisco and back again as far as Rio Janiero when Captain Enoch received his first mail from home. A travel-stained letter, bearing Abner Crowell’s cramped handwriting, threw the captain into a sudden panic.
“I don’t know whether to open it, or not,” he debated nervously. “I want to know what’s in it, an’ I’m scared to find out. I’m a good mind to throw it overboard and forget I ever got it.”
Curiosity finally overcame his dread. The letter was encouragingly brief.
“‘Dere Enoch,’” he read. “‘I’d like to know what you blowed up an’ went off the way you did for. Abner Crowell.” “P.S. Mrs. Crowell sends her respecks, and Miss Melissa Macy her regards, if you want ’em. A.C.” “P.S. Number two. All you need, Enoch Burgess, is about ten inches more on your ears. A.C.’”
“‘Miss Melissa Macy,’” repeated Captain Enoch. “He would have said Mrs. Peters, if she was married.”
The captain leaped to his feet and rushed on deck. A boat was just leaving the steamer’s side, the mate sitting placidly under an awning.
“Hey, wait,” roared the captain wildly. “I’m goin’ to git our clearance papers,” he shouted, as the astonished mate ordered the boat back. “I ain’t goin’ to hang around here waitin’ for a lazy planter to git a cargo of coffee aboard. I don’t care if there ain’t any more coffee in the world; folks can drink tea. I’m goin’ home as quick as steam can take me.”
Lights were beginning to shine in the homes of Mapleville when the captain came to the end of his long journey. A shining path stretched temptingly from Melissa’s windows to the gate and the captain followed it eagerly.