“But,” says I, “he owns his place down there by the shore, don’t he?”
All hands laughed—that is, all but Cap’n Benijah. “Own nothing,” says the cap’n. “The whole rat trap, from the keel to maintruck, ain’t worth more’n three hundred dollars, and I loaned Thankful four hundred on it years ago, and the mortgage fell due last September. Not a cent of principal, interest, nor rent have I got since. Whether he goes to the poorhouse or not, he goes out of that house of mine to-morrer. A man can smite me on one cheek and maybe I’ll turn t’other, but when, after I have turned it, he finds fault ’cause my face hurts his hand, then I rise up and quit; you hear me!”
Nobody could help hearing him, unless they was deefer than the feller that fell out of the balloon and couldn’t hear himself strike, so all hands agreed that sending Asaph Blueworthy to the poorhouse would be a good thing. ’Twould be a lesson to Ase, and would give the poorhouse one more excuse for being on earth. Wellmouth’s a fairly prosperous town, and the paupers had died, one after the other, and no new ones had come, until all there was left in the poorhouse was old Betsy Mullen, who was down with creeping palsy, and Deborah Badger, who’d been keeper ever since her husband died.
The poorhouse property was valuable, too, specially for a summer cottage, being out on the end of Robbin’s Point, away from the town, and having a fine view right across the bay. Zoeth Tiddit was a committee of one with power from the town to sell the place, but he hadn’t found a customer yet. And if he did sell it, what to do with Debby was more or less of a question. She’d kept poorhouse for years, and had no other home nor no relations to go to. Everybody liked her, too—that is, everybody but Cap’n Benijah. He was down on her ’cause she was a Spiritualist and believed in fortune tellers and such. The cap’n, bein’ a deacon of the Come-Outer persuasion, was naturally down on folks who wasn’t broad-minded enough to see that his partic’lar crack in the roof was the only way to crawl through to glory.
Well, we voted to send Asaph to the poorhouse, and then I was appointed a delegate to see him and tell him he’d got to go. I wasn’t enthusiastic over the job, but everybody said I was exactly the feller for the place.
“To tell you the truth,” drawls Darius, “you, being a stranger, are the only one that Ase couldn’t talk over. He’s got a tongue that’s buttered on both sides and runs on ball bearings. If I should see him he’d work on my sympathies till I’d lend him the last two-cent piece in my baby’s bank.”
So, as there wa’n’t no way out of it, I drove down to Asaph’s that afternoon. He lived off on a side road by the shore, in a little, run-down shanty that was as no account as he was. When I moored my horse to the “heavenly-wood” tree by what was left of the fence, I would have bet my sou’wester that I caught a glimpse of Brother Blueworthy, peeking round the corner of the house. But when I turned that corner there was nobody in sight, although the bu’sted wash-bench, with a cranberry crate propping up its lame end, was shaking a little, as if some one had set on it recent.