Stumpton and his daughter, Maudina, was at the Old Home House. ’Twas late in September, and the boarders had cleared out. Old Dillaway—Peter’s father-in-law—had decoyed the pair on from Montana because him and some Wall Street sharks were figgering on buying some copper country out that way that Stumpton owned. Then Dillaway was took sick, and Peter, who was just back from his wedding tower, brought the Montana victims down to the Cape with the excuse to give ’em a good time alongshore, but really to keep ’em safe and out of the way till Ebenezer got well enough to finish robbing ’em. Belle—Peter’s wife—stayed behind to look after papa.
Stumpton was a great tall man, narrer in the beam, and with a figgerhead like a henhawk. He enjoyed himself here at the Cape. He fished, and loafed, and shot at a mark. He sartinly could shoot. The only thing he was wishing for was something alive to shoot at, and Brown had promised to take him out duck shooting. ’Twas too early for ducks, but that didn’t worry Peter any; he’d a-had ducks to shoot at if he bought all the poultry in the township.
Maudina was like her name, pretty, but sort of soft and mushy. She had big blue eyes and a baby face, and her principal cargo was poetry. She had a deckload of it, and she’d heave it overboard every time the wind changed. She was forever ordering the ocean to “roll on,” but she didn’t mean it; I had her out sailing once when the bay was a little mite rugged, and I know. She was just out of a convent school, and you could see she wasn’t used to most things— including men.
The first week slipped along, and everything was serene. Bulletins from Ebenezer more encouraging every day, and no squalls in sight. But ’twas almost too slick. I was afraid the calm was a weather breeder, and sure enough, the hurricane struck us the day after that fishing trip.
Peter had gone driving with Maudina and her dad, and me and Cap’n Jonadab was smoking on the front piazza. I was pulling at a pipe, but the cap’n had the home end of one of Stumpton’s cigars harpooned on the little blade of his jackknife, and was busy pumping the last drop of comfort out of it. I never see a man who wanted to get his money’s wuth more’n Jonadab, I give you my word, I expected to see him swaller that cigar remnant every minute.
And all to once he gives a gurgle in his throat.
“Take a drink of water,” says I, scared like.
“Well, by time!” says he, pointing.
A feller had just turned the corner of the house and was heading up in our direction. He was a thin, lengthy craft, with more’n the average amount of wrists sticking out of his sleeves, and with long black hair trimmed aft behind his ears and curling on the back of his neck. He had high cheek bones and kind of sunk-in black eyes, and altogether he looked like “Dr. Macgoozleum, the Celebrated Blackfoot Medicine Man.” If he’d hollered: “Sagwa Bitters, only one dollar a bottle!” I wouldn’t have been surprised.