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Five Hundred Dollars First published in the "Century Magazine"   By: (1847-1924)

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By Heman White Chaplin


First published in the "Century Magazine."


Captain Philo's sail loft was a pleasant place to sit in, and it was much frequented. At one end was a wide, sliding door, that opened on the water, and through it you saw the little harbor and the low, glistening sand bar at its entrance, and whitecaps in the sea beyond, and shining sails. At the other end another wide door led, by a gently descending cleated platform, to the ground.

It was a pleasant place to rest and refresh the mind in, whether you chose to look in or out. You could rock in the hair cloth chair by the water door, and join in conversation with more active persons mending seines upon the wharf; or you could dangle your heels from the work bench, and listen to stories and debates inside, and look on Captain Philo sewing upon a mainsail.

It was a summer afternoon: warm under the silver poplars, hot in the store, and hotter in the open street; but in the sail loft it was cool.

"More than once," Captain Bennett was remarking from the rocking chair, while his prunella shoes went up and down, "more than once I've wished that I could freight this loft to Calcutta on speculation, and let it out, so much a head, for so long a time, to set in and cool off."

"How about them porious water jars they hev there?" asked Uncle Silas, who had never sailed beyond Cape Pogue; "how do they work?"

"Well," said the captain, "they 're so so. But you set up this loft, both doors slid open, air drawing through and all, right on Calcutta main street, or what they call the Maiden's Esplanade, and fit it up with settees like a conference meeting, and advertise, and you could let out chances to set for twenty cents an hour."

"You 'd hev to hev a man to take tickets, to the door," said Uncle Silas, who had been looking for an easy job for forty years.

"That's Si all over." said Captain Bennett, with a wink; "that berth would be just his size."

"Well," said Uncle Silas, faintly smiling, "'t is no use rubbin' the fur the wrong way; stroke the world from head to tail is my rule."

"Speaking of folks being easy," said Captain Bennett, "it seems there 's quite a little story about David Prince's voyage on the 'Viola.'" "I thought he went off whaling rather in a hurry," said Captain Philo, "and if it had been 'most anybody else, I should have thought there was something up."

"It seems," said Captain Bennett, "it was like this: You know, Delia was n't much over ten years old when her mother died, along a piece after her father, and she come to live with us. And you know how she was almost like one of the family. Well, about eight years ago, when she 'd got to be towards nineteen, it was then that David first set out to shine up to her; and when he begun to come home from singing school with her that winter, and got to coming to the house quite often the next spring along, I begun to feel a little shaky. Finally, one Sunday afternoon I was sitting out on the porch and she was singing hymns inside, you know she was always singing, and I called to her to quit and come out, and sit down alongside of me, and says I, "'Delia, it can't be you 're thinking of taking up with David Prince?'

"Well, she flared a little, but finally says she:

"'Why should n't I, or anybody that has the chance, take David Prince?'

"'Well,' says I, 'I don't think you need to ask why; I should say that a smart girl wouldn't want more than to travel once along the Lower Road and see those two run down houses, one deserted, and the other, handy by, about as bad, and the barn across the road, that was raised and boarded in over forty years ago, and never shingled, and stood so till it's all rotted and sunk in.'

"'What's that got to do with David?' says she.

"'It's got this to do with David,' says I, 'that his father and his Uncle Ezekiel and their father before 'em good, kindly men all seemed to settle, settle, somehow; and it was all to morrow, and to morrow, with 'em; 'and then I told Delia how they sold off their wood and then their land, piecemeal, all but the spot where the old buildings stand, and that's worth nothing... Continue reading book >>

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