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- THE DEPOT MASTER - 1/55 -


THE DEPOT MASTER

by Joseph C. Lincoln

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I.--AT THE DEPOT

II.--SUPPLY AND DEMAND

III.--"STINGY GABE"

IV.--THE MAJOR

V.--A BABY AND A ROBBERY

VI.--AVIATION AND AVARICE

VII.--CAPTAIN SOL DECIDES TO MOVE

VIII.--THE OBLIGATIONS OF A GENTLEMAN

IX.--THE WIDOW BASSETT

X.--CAPTAIN JONADAB GOES

XI. THE GREAT METROPOLIS

XII.--A VISION SENT

XIII.--DUSENBERRY'S BIRTHDAY

XIV.--EFFIE'S FATE

XV.--THE "HERO" AND THE COWBOY

XVI.--THE CRUISE OF THE RED CAR

XVII.--ISSY'S REVENGE

XVIII.--THE MOUNTAIN AND MAHOMET

THE DEPOT MASTER

CHAPTER I

AT THE DEPOT

Mr. Simeon Phinney emerged from the side door of his residence and paused a moment to light his pipe in the lee of the lilac bushes. Mr. Phinney was a man of various and sundry occupations, and his sign, nailed to the big silver-leaf in the front yard, enumerated a few of them. "Carpenter, Well Driver, Building Mover, Cranberry Bogs Seen to with Care and Dispatch, etc., etc.," so read the sign. The house was situated in "Phinney's Lane," the crooked little byway off "Cross Street," between the "Shore Road" at the foot of the slope and the "Hill Boulevard"--formerly "Higgins's Roost"--at the top. From the Phinney gate the view was extensive and, for the most part, wet. The hill descended sharply, past the "Shore Road," over the barren fields and knolls covered with bayberry bushes and "poverty grass," to the yellow sand of the beach and the gray, weather-beaten fish-houses scattered along it. Beyond was the bay, a glimmer in the sunset light.

Mrs. Phinney, in the kitchen, was busy with the supper dishes. Her husband, wheezing comfortably at his musical pipe, drew an ancient silver watch from his pocket and looked at its dial. Quarter past six. Time to be getting down to the depot and the post office. At least a dozen male citizens of East Harniss were thinking that very thing at that very moment. It was a community habit of long standing to see the train come in and go after the mail. The facts that the train bore no passengers in whom you were intimately interested, and that you expected no mail made little difference. If you were a man of thirty or older, you went to the depot or the "club," just as your wife or sisters went to the sewing circle, for sociability and mild excitement. If you were a single young man you went to the post office for the same reason that you attended prayer meeting. If you were a single young lady you went to the post office and prayer meeting to furnish a reason for the young man.

Mr. Phinney, replacing his watch in his pocket, meandered to the sidewalk and looked down the hill and along the length of the "Shore Road." Beside the latter highway stood a little house, painted a spotless white, its window blinds a vivid green. In that house dwelt, and dwelt alone, Captain Solomon Berry, Sim Phinney's particular friend. Captain Sol was the East Harniss depot master and, from long acquaintance, Mr. Phinney knew that he should be through supper and ready to return to the depot, by this time. The pair usually walked thither together when the evening meal was over.

But, except for the smoke curling lazily from the kitchen chimney, there was no sign of life about the Berry house. Either Captain Sol had already gone, or he was not yet ready to go. So Mr. Phinney decided that waiting was chancey, and set out alone.

He climbed Cross Street to where the "Hill Boulevard," abiding place of East Harniss's summer aristocracy, bisected it, and there, standing on the corner, and consciously patronizing the spot where he so stood, was Mr. Ogden Hapworth Williams, no less.

Mr. Williams was the village millionaire, patron, and, in a gentlemanly way, "boomer." His estate on the Boulevard was the finest in the county, and he, more than any one else, was responsible for the "buying up" by wealthy people from the city of the town's best building sites, the spots commanding "fine marine sea views," to quote from Abner Payne, local real estate and insurance agent. His own estate was fine enough to be talked about from one end of the Cape to the other and he had bought the empty lot opposite and made it into a miniature park, with flower beds and gravel walks, though no one but he or his might pick the flowers or tread the walks. He had brought on a wealthy friend from New York and a cousin from Chicago, and they, too, had bought acres on the Boulevard and erected palatial "cottages" where once were the houses of country people. Local cynics suggested that the sign on the East Harniss railroad station should be changed to read "Williamsburg." "He owns the place, body and soul," said they.

As Sim Phinney climbed the hill the magnate, pompous, portly, and imposing, held up a signaling finger. "Just as if he was hailin' a horse car," described Simeon afterward.

"Phinney," he said, "come here, I want to speak to you."

The man of many trades obediently approached.

"Good evenin', Mr. Williams," he ventured.

"Phinney," went on the great man briskly, "I want you to give me your figures on a house moving deal. I have bought a house on the Shore Road, the one that used to belong to the--er--Smalleys, I believe."

Simeon was surprised. "What, the old Smalley house?" he exclaimed. "You don't tell me!"

"Yes, it's a fine specimen--so my wife says--of the pure Colonial, whatever that is, and I intend moving it to the Boulevard. I want your figures for the job."

The building mover looked puzzled. "To the Boulevard?" he said. "Why, I didn't know there was a vacant lot on the Boulevard, Mr. Williams."

"There isn't now, but there will be soon. I have got hold of the hundred feet left from the old Seabury estate."

Mr. Phinney drew a long breath. "Why!" he stammered, "that's where Olive Edwards--her that was Olive Seabury--lives, ain't it?"

"Yes," was the rather impatient answer. "She has been living there. But the place was mortgaged up to the handle and--ahem--the mortgage is mine now."

For an instant Simeon did not reply. He was gazing, not up the Boulevard in the direction of the "Seabury place" but across the slope of the hill toward the home of Captain Sol Berry, the depot master. There was a troubled look on his face.

"Well?" inquired Williams briskly, "when can you give me the figures? They must be low, mind. No country skin games, you understand."

"Hey?" Phinney came out of his momentary trance. "Yes, yes, Mr. Williams. They'll be low enough. Times is kind of dull now and I'd like a movin' job first-rate. I'll give 'em to you to-morrer. But--but Olive'll have to move, won't she? And where's she goin'?"

"She'll have to move, sure. And the eyesore on that lot now will come down."

The "eyesore" was the four room building, combined dwelling and shop of Mrs. Olive Edwards, widow of "Bill Edwards," once a promising young man, later town drunkard and ne'er-do-well, dead these five years, luckily for himself and luckier--in a way--for the wife who had stuck by him while he wasted her inheritance in a losing battle with John Barleycorn. At his death the fine old Seabury place had dwindled to a lone hundred feet of land, the little house, and a mortgage on both. Olive had opened a "notion store" in her front parlor and had fought on, proudly refusing aid and trying to earn a living. She had failed. Again Phinney stared thoughtfully at the distant house of Captain Sol.

"But Olive," he said, slowly. "She ain't got no folks, has she? What'll become of her? Where'll she move to?"


THE DEPOT MASTER - 1/55

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