The captain stared at the note. Then he threw it to the floor and started for the door. The minister sprang from his chair and called to him.
“Nat,” he cried. “Nat! Stop! where are you going?”
“Goin’?” he growled. “Goin’? I’m goin’ to find her, first of all. Then I’m comin’ back to wait for him.”
“But you won’t have to wait. He’ll never come. He’s dead.”
“Dead? Dead? By the everlastin’! this has been too much for you, I ought to have known it. I’ll send the doctor here right off. I can’t stay myself. I’ve got to go. But—”
“Listen! listen to me! Ansel Coffin is dead, I tell you. I know it. I know all about it. That was what I wanted to see you about. Did Keziah tell you of the San Jose and the sailor who died of smallpox in this very building? In that room there?”
“Yes. John, you—”
“I’m not raving. It’s the truth. That sailor was Ansel Coffin. I watched with him and one night, the night before he died, he spoke Keziah’s name. He spoke of New Bedford and of Trumet and of her, over and over again. I was sure who he was then, but I called in Ebenezer Capen, who used to know Coffin in New Bedford. And he recognized him. Nat, as sure as you and I are here this minute, Ansel Coffin, Aunt Keziah’s husband, is buried in the Trumet cemetery.”
IN WHICH MR. STONE WASHES HIS HANDS
Mr. Abner Stone, of Stone & Barker, marine outfitters and ship chandlers, with a place of business on Commercial Street in Boston, and a bank account which commanded respect throughout the city, was feeling rather irritable and out of sorts. Poor relations are always a nuisance. They are forever expecting something, either money—in Mr. Stone’s case this particular expectation was usually fruitless—or employment or influence or something. Mr. Stone was rich, he had become so by his own ability and unaided effort. He was sure of that—often mentioned it, with more or less modesty, in the speeches which he delivered to his Sunday-school class and at the dinners of various societies to which he belonged. He was a self-made man and was conscious that he had done a good job.
Therefore, being self-made, he saw no particular reason why he should aid in the making of others. If people were poor they ought to get over it. Poverty was a disease and he was no doctor. He had been poor once himself, and no one had helped him. “I helped myself,” he was wont to say, with pride. Some of his rivals in business, repeating this remark, smiled and added that he had been “helping himself” ever since.
Mr. Stone had “washed his hands” of his cousin, Keziah Coffin, or thought he had. After her brother Solomon died she had written to him, asking him to find her a position of some kind in Boston. “I don’t want money, I don’t want charity,” wrote Keziah. “What I want is work. Can you get it for me, Abner? I write to you because father used to tell of what you said to him about gratitude and how you would never rest until you had done something in return for what he did for you.”