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Shavings   By: (1870-1944)

Shavings by Joseph Crosby Lincoln

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by Joseph C. Lincoln


Mr. Gabriel Bearse was happy. The prominence given to this statement is not meant to imply that Gabriel was, as a general rule, unhappy. Quite the contrary; Mr. Bearse's disposition was a cheerful one and the cares of this world had not rounded his plump shoulders. But Captain Sam Hunniwell had once said, and Orham public opinion agreed with him, that Gabe Bearse was never happy unless he was talking. Now here was Gabriel, not talking, but walking briskly along the Orham main road, and yet so distinctly happy that the happiness showed in his gait, his manner and in the excited glitter of his watery eye. Truly an astonishing condition of things and tending, one would say, to prove that Captain Sam's didactic remark, so long locally accepted and quoted as gospel truth, had a flaw in its wisdom somewhere.

And yet the flaw was but a small one and the explanation simple. Gabriel was not talking at that moment, it is true, but he was expecting to talk very soon, to talk a great deal. He had just come into possession of an item of news which would furnish his vocal machine gun with ammunition sufficient for wordy volley after volley. Gabriel was joyfully contemplating peppering all Orham with that bit of gossip. No wonder he was happy; no wonder he hurried along the main road like a battery galloping eagerly into action.

He was on his way to the post office, always the gossip sharpshooters' first line trench, when, turning the corner where Nickerson's Lane enters the main road, he saw something which caused him to pause, alter his battle mad walk to a slower one, then to a saunter, and finally to a halt altogether. This something was a toy windmill fastened to a white picket fence and clattering cheerfully as its arms spun in the brisk, pleasant summer breeze.

The little windmill was one of a dozen, all fastened to the top rail of that fence and all whirling. Behind the fence, on posts, were other and larger windmills; behind these, others larger still. Interspersed among the mills were little wooden sailors swinging paddles; weather vanes in the shapes of wooden whales, swordfish, ducks, crows, seagulls; circles of little wooden profile sailboats, made to chase each other 'round and 'round a central post. All of these were painted in gay colors, or in black and white, and all were in motion. The mills spun, the boats sailed 'round and 'round, the sailors did vigorous Indian club exercises with their paddles. The grass in the little yard and the tall hollyhocks in the beds at its sides swayed and bowed and nodded. Beyond, seen over the edge of the bluff and stretching to the horizon, the blue and white waves leaped and danced and sparkled. As a picture of movement and color and joyful bustle the scene was inspiring; children, viewing it for the first time, almost invariably danced and waved their arms in sympathy. Summer visitors, loitering idly by, suddenly became fired with the desire to set about doing something, something energetic.

Gabriel Bearse was not a summer visitor, but a "native," that is, an all the year round resident of Orham, and, as his fellow natives would have cheerfully testified, it took much more than windmills to arouse HIS energy. He had not halted to look at the mills. He had stopped because the sight of them recalled to his mind the fact that the maker of these mills was a friend of one of the men most concerned in his brand new news item. It was possible, barely possible, that here was an opportunity to learn just a little more, to obtain an additional clip of cartridges before opening fire on the crowd at the post office. Certainly it might be worth trying, particularly as the afternoon mail would not be ready for another hour, even if the train was on time.

At the rear of the little yard, and situated perhaps fifty feet from the edge of the high sand bluff leading down precipitously to the beach, was a shingled building, whitewashed, and with a door, painted green, and four windows on the side toward the road... Continue reading book >>

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