MR. BILL HEN.
Mr. Bill Hen Pike had come to have a good long gossip. It was some time since a schooner had come up the river, for the ice-shipping had not yet begun, and he was fairly thirsting for maritime intelligence. He desired to know the tonnage of the “Nautilus,” her age, where she was built, and by whom; her original cost, and what sums had been expended in repairs since she had been in the Skipper’s possession; how many trips she had made, to what ports, and with what cargoes; the weather that had been encountered on each and every trip. These things and many more of like import did the Skipper unfold, sitting at ease on the cabin table, while Mr. Bill Hen tilted the only chair in rhythmic content. His hat was tilted, too; his broad red face shone with pleasure; the world was a good place to him, full of information.
At last the questions came to an end; it seemed a pity, but there was really nothing left to ask, since it appeared that the Skipper was unmarried and had no relations. But now the Skipper’s own turn had come, and quietly, with just enough show of interest to be polite, he began the return game. “You have been at sea a large part of your life, Senor Pike?”
“Oh, yes! yes! I’m well used to the sea. That is—off and on, you know, off and on. I was mate on a coasting schooner, saw a good deal that way, you know; like the sea first-rate, but my wife, she won’t hear to my going off nowadays, and there’s the farm to ’tend to, stock and hay, var’ous things, var’ous things; all about it, my sea-going days are over, yes, yes! Pleasant place, though, pleasant place, though the strength going out of my legs makes it troublesome by times, yes, yes! Been in these parts before, you said? Oh, no! said you hadn’t; beg your pardon! Pleasant part of the country! good soil, good neighbours.”
“Fine country, I should suppose!” said the Skipper; “and as you say, sir, the persons agreeable for knowledge. You know the boy whom I hear called John, with the old gentleman who collects shells?”
“Oh! ho!” said Mr. Bill Hen, delighted to find a fresh subject of interest. “Deacon Scraper, yes, yes! well named, sir, Deacon Scraper is, well named, you see! Very close man, pizeon close they do say. Lived here all his life, Deacon Scraper has, and made a fortune. Scraped it, some say, out of folks as weren’t so well off as he, but I don’t know. Keen after shells, the old gentleman, yes, yes! like liquor to him, I’ve heard say. Never a man to drink or what you might call royster, no way of the world but just that; but get him off to Boston, or any place where there were shells to be bought, and he’d come home fairly drunk with ’em, his trunk busting out and all his money gone. Seems cur’ous, too, for such an old rip as Dym Scraper, to care for such things; but we’re made sing’lar,—one one way, and ’nother one t’other. That’s so, I reckon, in your part of the world as well as hereabouts?”