Read CHAPTER IV of Our Pirate Hoard 1891 , free online book, by Thomas A. Janvier, on

Gregory Wilkinson seemed to find himself quite comfortable in our little home, and settled down there into a sort of permanency. We were glad to have him stay with us, for he was a first-rate fellow, and always good company in his pleasant, quiet way, and he told us two or three times that he was enjoying himself. He told me a great many more than two or three times that he considered Susan to be a wonderfully fine woman; indeed, he told me this at least once every day, and sometimes oftener. He was greatly struck just as everybody is who lives for any length of time in the same house with Susan by her capable ways, and by her unfailing equanimity and sweetness of temper. Even when the colored girl fell down the well, carrying the rope and the bucket along with her, Susan was not a bit flustered. She told me just where I would find the clothes-line and a big meat-hook; and when, with this hastily-improvised apparatus, we had fished the colored girl up and got her safely on dry land again, she knew exactly what to do to make her all right and comfortable. As Gregory Wilkinson observed to me, after it was all over, from the way that Susan behaved, any one might have thought that hooking colored girls up out of wells was her regular business.

As to making Susan angry, that simply was impossible. When things went desperately wrong with her in any way she would just come right to me and cry a little on my shoulder. Then, when I had comforted her, she would chipper up and be all right again in no time. Gregory Wilkinson happened to come in one day while a performance of this sort was going on, and for fear that he should think it odd Susan explained to him that it was a habit of hers when things very much worried her and she felt like being ugly to people. (The trouble that day was that the colored girl, who had a wonderful faculty for stirring up tribulation, had broken an India china teacup that had belonged to Susan’s grandmother, and that Susan had thought the world of.) That evening, while we were sitting on the veranda smoking, and before Susan, who was helping clear the supper-table, had joined us, Gregory Wilkinson said to me, with oven, more emphasis than usual, that Susan was the finest woman he had ever known; and he added that he was very sorry that when he was my ago he had not met and married just such another.

He and I talked a good deal at odd times about the money that our great-great-great-uncle the pirate had buried, and that through all these years had stayed buried so persistently. He did not take much interest in the matter personally, but for my sake, and still more for Susan’s sake, he was beginning to be quite anxious that the money should be found. He even suggested that we should take Old Jacob over to the bay-side and let him try again to find the Martha Ann’s anchorage; but a little talk convinced us that this would be useless. The old man had been given every opportunity, during the two days that we had cruised about with him, to refresh his memory; and we both had been the pained witnesses of the curious psychological fact that the more he refreshed it, the more utterly unmanageable it had become. The prospect, we agreed, was a disheartening one, for it was quite evident that for our purposes Old Jacob was, as it were, but an elderly, broken reed.

About this time I noticed that Gregory Wilkinson was unusually silent, and seemed to be thinking a great deal about something. At first we were afraid that he was not quite well, and Susan offered him both her prepared mustard plasters and her headache powders. But he said that he was all right, though he was very much obliged to her. Still, he kept on thinking, and he was so silent and preoccupied that Susan and I were very uncomfortable. To have him around that way, and to be always wondering what he could possibly be thinking about, Susan said, made her feel as though she were trying to eavesdrop when nobody was talking.

One afternoon while we were sitting on the veranda Susan and I trying to keep up some sort of a conversation, and Gregory Wilkinson thinking away as hard as ever he could think a thin man in a buggy drove down the road and stopped at our hitch-ing-post. When he had hitched his horse he took out from the after-part of the buggy a largo tin vessel standing on light iron legs, and came up to the house with it. He made us all a sort of comprehensive bow, but stopped in front of Susan, set the tin vessel upon its legs, and said:

“Madam, you behold before you the most economical device and the greatest labor-saving invention of this extraordinarily devicious and richly inventive age. This article, madam” and he placed his hand upon the tin vessel affectionately “is Stowe’s patent combination interchangeable churn and wash-boiler.”

Susan did not say anything; she simply shuddered.

“As at present arranged, madam,” the man went on, “it is a churn. Standing thus upon these light yet firm legs” (the thing wobbled outrageously), “with this serviceable handle projecting from the top, and communicating with an exceptionally effective churning apparatus within, it is beyond all doubt the very best churn, as well as the cheapest, now offered on the American market. But observe, madam, that as a wash-boiler it is not less excellent. By the simple process of removing the handle, taking out the dasher, and unshipping the legs the work, as you perceive, of but a moment the process of transformation is complete. As to the trifling orifice that the removal of the handle leaves in the lid, it becomes, when the wash-boiler side of this Protean vessel is uppermost, a positive benefit. It is an effective safety-valve. Without it, I am not prepared to say that the boiler would not burst, scattering around it the scalded, mangled remains of your washer-woman and utterly ruining your week’s wash.

“And mark, madam, mark most of all, the economy of this invention. I need not say to you, a housekeeper of knowledge and experience, that churning-day and wash-day stand separate and distinct upon your household calendar. Under no circumstances is it conceivable that the churn and the wash-boiler shall be required for use upon the same day. Clearly the use of the one presupposes and compels the neglect of the other. Then why cumber your house with these two articles, equally large and equally unwieldly, when, by means of the beautiful invention that I have the honor of presenting to your notice, the two in one can be united, and money and house-room alike can be saved? I trust, madam, I believe, that I have said enough to convince you that my article is all that fancy can paint or bright hope inspire; that in every household made glad by its presence it will be regarded always and forever as a heaven-given boon!” Suddenly dropping his rhetorical tone and coming down to the tone of business, the man went on: “You’ll buy one, won’t you? The price ”

The change of tone seemed to arouse Susan from the spellbound condition in which she had remained during this extraordinary harangue.

“O-o-o-oh!” she said, shudderingly, “do take the horrid, horrid thing right away!” Then she fled into the house.

I was very angry at the man for disturbing Susan in this way, and I told him so pretty plainly; and I also told him to get out. At this juncture, to my astonishment, Gregory Wilkinson interposed by asking what the thing was worth; and when the man said five dollars, he said that he would buy it. The man had manifested a disposition to be ugly while I was giving him his talking to, but when he found that he had made a sale, after all, he grew civil again. As he went off he expressed the hope that the lady would be all right presently, and the conviction that she would find the combination churn and wash-boiler a household blessing that probably would add ten years to her life.

“What on earth did you buy that for?” I asked, when the man had gone.

“Oh, I don’t know. It seems to be a pretty good wash-boiler, anyway. I heard your wife say the other day that she wanted a wash-boiler. She needn’t use it as a churn if she don’t want to, you know.”

“But my wife never will tolerate that disgusting thing, with its horrid suggestiveness of worse than Irish uncleanliness, about the house,” I went on, rather hotly. “I really must beg of you to send it away.”

“All right,” he answered. “I’ll take it away. I’m going to New York to-morrow, and I’ll take it along.”

“And what ever will you do with it in New York?” I asked.

“Well, I can’t say positively yet, but I guess I’ll send it out to the asylum. They’d be glad to get it there, I don’t doubt not as a churn, you know, but for wash-boiling.”

Then he went on to tell me that one of the things that he especially wanted done at the asylum with his legacy was the construction of a steam-laundry, with a thing in the middle that went round and round, and dried the clothes by centrifugal pressure. He explained that the asylum was only just starting as an asylum, and was provided not only with very few destitute red Indian children, but also with very few of the appliances which an institution of that sort requires, and that was the reason why he had selected it, in preference to many other very deserving charities, to leave his money to.

I must say that I was glad to hear him talking in this strain, for his sudden announcement of his intended departure for New York, just after I had spoken so warmly to him, made me fear that I had offended him. But it was clear that I hadn’t, and that his going off in this unexpected fashion did not mean anything. He always did have a fancy for doing things suddenly.

Susan was worried about it, in just the same way, when I told her; but she ended by agreeing with me that he was not in the least offended at anything. Indeed, that evening we both were very much pleased to notice what good spirits he was in. His preoccupied manner was entirely gone, and, for him, he was positively lively. Evidently, whatever the thing was that he had been thinking about so hard, he had settled it in a way that satisfied him.

Just as we were going to bed he told me, in what struck me at the time as rather an odd tone, that he was under the impression that he had somewhere a chest full of old family papers, and that possibly among these papers there might be something that would tell me how to find the fortune that Susan and I certainly deserved to have. As he said this he laughed in a queer sort of way, and then he looked at Susan very affectionately, and then he took each of us by the hand.

“Oh!” said Susan, rapturously (when Susan is excited she always begins what she has to say with an “Oh!” I like it). “To think of finding a piece of old yellow parchment with a quite undecipherable cryptogram written on it in invisible ink telling us just where we ought to dig! How perfectly lovely! Why didn’t you think of it sooner?”

“Because I have been neither more nor less than a blind old fool. And and I have to thank you, my dear,” he continued, still speaking in the queer tone, “for having effectually opened my eyes.” As he made this self-derogatory and quite incomprehensible statement he turned to Susan, kissed her in a great hurry, shook our hands warmly, said goodnight, and trotted off up-stairs to his room. His conduct was very extraordinary. But then, as I have already mentioned, Gregory Wilkinson had a way of always doing just the things which nobody expected him to do.

He had settled back into his ordinary manner by morning; at least he was not much queerer than usual, and bade us good-bye cheerily at the Lewes railway station. I had hired a light wagon and had driven him over in time for the early train, bringing Susan along, so that she might see the last of him. What with all three of us, his trunk and valise, and the churn-wash-boiler, we had a wagon-load.

Susan was horrified at the thought of his giving the churn-wash-boiler to the asylum. “Even if they only are allowed to use it as a wash-boiler,” she argued, earnestly, “think what dreadful ideas of untidiness it will put into those destitute red Indian children’s heads! ideas,” she went on, “which will only tend to make them disgrace instead of doing credit to the position of easy affluence to which your legacy will lift them when they return to their barbaric wilds. If you must give it to them, at least conceal from them I beg of you, conceal from them the fatal fact that it ever was meant to be a churn too.”

Gregory Wilkinson promised Susan that he would conceal this fact from the destitute red Indian children; and then the train started, and he and the churn-wash-boiler were whisked away. We really were very sorry to part with him.