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Thankful's Inheritance   By: (1870-1944)

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By Joseph C. Lincoln


The road from Wellmouth Centre to East Wellmouth is not a good one; even in dry weather and daylight it is not that. For the first two miles it winds and twists its sandy way over bare hills, with cranberry swamps and marshy ponds in the hollows between. Then it enters upon a three mile stretch bordered with scrubby pines and bayberry thickets, climbing at last a final hill to emerge upon the bluff with the ocean at its foot. And, fringing that bluff and clustering thickest in the lowlands just beyond, is the village of East Wellmouth, which must on no account be confused with South Wellmouth, or North Wellmouth, or West Wellmouth, or even Wellmouth Port.

On a bright sunny summer day the East Wellmouth road is a hard one to travel. At nine o'clock of an evening in March, with a howling gale blowing and rain pouring in torrents, traveling it is an experience. Winnie S., who drives the East Wellmouth depot wagon, had undergone the experience several times in the course of his professional career, but each time he vowed vehemently that he would not repeat it; he would "heave up" his job first.

He was vowing it now. Perched on the edge of the depot wagon's front seat, the reins leading from his clenched fists through the slit in the "boot" to the rings on the collar of General Jackson, the aged horse, he expressed his opinion of the road, the night, and the job.

"By Judas priest!" declared Winnie S. his name was Winfield Scott Hancock Holt, but no resident of East Wellmouth called him anything but Winnie S. "by Judas priest! If this ain't enough to make a feller give up tryin' to earn a livin', then I don't know! Tell him he can't ship aboard a schooner 'cause goin' to sea's a dog's life, and then put him on a job like this! Dog's life! Judas priest! What kind of a life's THIS, I want to know?"

From the curtain depths of the depot wagon behind him a voice answered, a woman's voice:

"Judgin' by the amount of dampness in it I should think you might call it a duck's life," it suggested.

Winnie S. accepted this pleasantry with a grunt. "I 'most wish I was a duck," he declared, savagely. "Then I could set in three inches of ice water and like it, maybe. Now what's the matter with you?" This last a roar to the horse, whose splashy progress along the gullied road had suddenly ceased. "What's the matter with you now?" repeated Winnie. "What have you done; come to anchor? Git dap!"

But General Jackson refused to "git dap." Jerks at the reins only caused him to stamp and evince an inclination to turn around. Go ahead he would not.

"Judas priest!" exclaimed the driver. "I do believe the critter's drowndin'! Somethin's wrong. I've got to get out and see, I s'pose. Set right where you be, ladies. I'll be back in a minute," adding, as he took a lighted lantern from beneath the seat and pulled aside the heavy boot preparatory to alighting, "unless I get in over my head, which ain't so dummed unlikely as it sounds."

Lantern in hand he clambered clumsily from beneath the boot and disappeared. Inside the vehicle was blackness, dense, damp and profound.

"Auntie," said a second feminine voice, "Auntie, what DO you suppose has happened?"

"I don't know, Emily. I'm prepared for 'most anything by this time. Maybe we've landed on Mount Ararat. I feel as if I'd been afloat for forty days and nights. Land sakes alive!" as another gust shot and beat its accompanying cloudburst through and between the carriage curtains; "right in my face and eyes! I don't wonder that boy wished he was a duck. I'd like to be a fish or a mermaid. I couldn't be much wetter if I was either one, and I'd have gills so I could breathe under water. I SUPPOSE mermaids have gills, I don't know."

Emily laughed. "Aunt Thankful," she declared, "I believe you would find something funny in a case of smallpox."

"Maybe I should; I never tried... Continue reading book >>

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