I don’t exactly know why Cap’n Jonadab and me went to the post-office that night; we wa’n’t expecting any mail, that’s sartin. I guess likely we done it for the reason the feller that tumbled overboard went to the bottom—’twas the handiest place to go.
Anyway we was there, and I was propping up the stove with my feet and holding down a chair with the rest of me, when Jonadab heaves alongside flying distress signals. He had an envelope in his starboard mitten, and, coming to anchor with a flop in the next chair, sets shifting the thing from one hand to the other as if it ’twas red hot.
I watched this performance for a spell, waiting for him to say something, but he didn’t, so I hailed, kind of sarcastic, and says: “What you doing—playing solitaire? Which hand’s ahead?”
He kind of woke up then, and passes the envelope over to me.
“Barzilla,” he says, “what in time do you s’pose that is?”
’Twas a queer looking envelope, more’n the average length fore and aft, but kind of scant in the beam. There was a puddle of red sealing wax on the back of it with a “D” in the middle, and up in one corner was a kind of picture thing in colors, with some printing in a foreign language underneath it. I b’lieve ’twas what they call a “coat-of-arms,” but it looked more like a patchwork comforter than it did like any coat ever I see. The envelope was addressed to “Captain Jonadab Wixon, Orham, Mass.”
I took my turn at twisting the thing around, and then I hands it back to Jonadab.
“I pass,” I says. “Where’d you get it?”
“’Twas in my box,” says he. “Must have come in to-night’s mail.”
I didn’t know the mail was sorted, but when he says that I got up and went over and unlocked my box, just to show that I hadn’t forgot how, and I swan to man if there wa’n’t another envelope, just like Jonadab’s, except that ’twas addressed to “Barzilla Wingate.”
“Humph!” says I, coming back to the stove; “you ain’t the only one that’s heard from the Prince of Wales. Look here!”
He was the most surprised man, but one, on the Cape: I was the one. We couldn’t make head nor tail of the business, and set there comparing the envelopes, and wondering who on earth had sent ’em. Pretty soon “Ily” Tucker heads over towards our moorings, and says he:
“What’s troubling the ancient mariners?” he says.
“Barzilla and me’s got a couple of letters,” says Cap’n Jonadab; “and we was wondering who they was from.”
Tucker leaned away down—he’s always suffering from a rush of funniness to the face—and he whispers, awful solemn: “For heaven’s sake, whatever you do, don’t open ’em. You might find out.” Then he threw off his main-hatch and “haw-hawed” like a loon.
To tell you the truth, we hadn’t thought of opening ’em—not yet— so that was kind of one on us, as you might say. But Jonadab ain’t so slow but he can catch up with a hearse if the horses stop to drink, and he comes back quick.