Well, the queerest part of it was that ’twas the bad weather was really what brought things to a head so sudden. Eben hadn’t spunked up anywhere nigh enough courage to propose, but they stopped at Ostable so long, waiting for the rain to let up, that ’twas after dark when they was half way home. Then Emma—oh, she was a slick one!—said that her reputation would be ruined, out that way with a man that wa’n’t her husband. If they was married now, she said—and even a dummy could take that hint.
I found Beriah at the weather-shanty about an hour afterwards with his head on his arms. He looked up when I come in.
“Mr. Wingate,” he says, “I’m a fool, but for the land’s sake don’t think I’m such a fool as not to know that this here storm was bound to strike to-day. I lied,” he says; “I lied about the weather for the first time in my life; lied right up and down so as to get her mad with him. My repertation’s gone forever. There’s a feller in the Bible that sold his—his birthday, I think ’twas—for a mess of porridge. I’m him; only,” and he groaned awful, “they’ve cheated me out of the porridge.”
But you ought to have read the letters Peter got next day from subscribers that had trusted to the prophecy and had gone on picnics and such like. The South Shore Weather Bureau went out of business right then.
It commenced the day after we took old man Stumpton out codfishing. Me and Cap’n Jonadab both told Peter T. Brown that cod wa’n’t biting much at that season, but he said cod be jiggered.
“What’s troubling me just now is landing suckers,” he says.
So the four of us got into the Patience M.—she’s Jonadab’s catboat—and sot sail for the Crab Ledge. And we hadn’t more’n got our lines over the side than we struck into a school of dogfish. Now, if you know anything about fishing you know that when the dogfish strike on it’s “good-by, cod!” So when Stumpton hauled a big fat one over the rail I could tell that Jonadab was ready to swear. But do you think it disturbed your old friend, Peter Brown? No, sir! He never winked an eye.
“By Jove!” he sings out, staring at that dogfish as if ’twas a gold dollar. “By Jove!” says he, “that’s the finest specimen of a Labrador mack’rel ever I see. Bait up, Stump, and go at ’em again.”
So Stumpton, having lived in Montana ever sence he was five years old, and not having sighted salt water in all that time, he don’t know but what there is such critters as “Labrador mack’rel,” and he goes at ’em, hammer and tongs. When we come ashore we had eighteen dogfish, four sculpin and a skate, and Stumpton was the happiest loon in Ostable County. It was all we could do to keep him from cooking one of them “mack’rel” with his own hands. If Jonadab hadn’t steered him out of the way while I sneaked down to the Port and bought a bass, we’d have had to eat dogfish—we would, as sure as I’m a foot high.