“Quiet then, my uncle!” said the Skipper, bending forward, and laying his hand on the old man’s knee.
“She is dead, she died in these arms. I am her son, do you see?”
But if Mr. Scraper saw, it was only for a moment, for he gave a scream, and fell together sideways in his chair, struck with a fit.
IN THE VALLEY OF DECISION.
“And now, Colorado, son of my heart,” the Skipper said, “you understand why I was a thief that yesterday, and why I could not permit you at that instant to tell of my thieving?”
They had put the old man to bed, and Mr. Bill Hen had gone for the doctor. In fact, when John ran out of the door, he had found Mr. Bill Hen leaning up against it, as speechless, with amazement and confusion, as Mr. Scraper himself! The good man, wholly unable to restrain his curiosity, had followed the Skipper and the boy, unbeknown to them, and posting himself in a convenient angle of the porch, had heard every word of the conversation. The Skipper, perceiving the facts, managed to rouse him with a few sharp words, and sent him off in hot haste to the village; and had then proceeded to make the old gentleman comfortable, and to set things shipshape, so far as might be.
“Do you think he will die?” asked John, peeping over the bed at the sunken features of the old man.
“I do not!” was the reply.
“I think this my revered uncle has yet many years to live—and repent, if so he be minded. He is a very bad old man, Colorado, this my revered uncle! Ah, thou ancient fish, thou art finally landed!”
“Are you sorry for a person when he is so bad as that?” asked the boy, as he had asked once before.
“Do you think a person could make him better, if he tried very hard indeed?”
“I have no knowledge!” said the Skipper, rather shortly. “I am a human person altogether, my son! and I concern myself not greatly with the improvement of this my revered uncle. Behold it, the will, made by my grandfather, the father of my poor mother, whose soul, with his, rest in eternal glory! By this, my mother, and I after her, inherit this house, this garden, these possessions such as they are. If I desire, son of mine, I may come here to-day to live, sell the ‘Nautilus,’ or cut her cable and let her drift down the river, with Rento and Franci, and all the shells; and I may live here in my house, to—what do you say? cultivate my lands, eat grass and give it to the cattle? What think you, Colorado? Is that a life? Shall I lead it, as is my right? Have I not had enough, think you, of roving over the sea, with no place where I may rest, save the heaving ocean, that rests never beneath the foot? Shall we turn out this old wicked man, who did to death his old father, who made my mother go sad of heart to her grave, who has done of all his life no kind act to any person—shall we turn him out, and live in peace here, you and I?”