THE DEPOT MASTER
THE DEPOT MASTER
JOSEPH C. LINCOLN
I.--AT THE DEPOT
II.--SUPPLY AND DEMAND
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
XV.--THE "HERO" AND THE COWBOY
XVI.--THE CRUISE OF THE RED CAR
XVIII.--THE MOUNTAIN AND MAHOMET
THE DEPOT MASTER
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
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
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.
"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
"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
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?"
"That" said Mr. Williams with a wave of a fat hand "is not my
business. I am sorry for her if she's hard up. But I can't be
responsible if men will drink up their wives' money. Look out for
number one; that's business. I sha'n't be unreasonable with her.
She can stay where she is until the new house I've bought is moved
to that lot. Then she must clear out. I've told her that. She
knows all about it. Well good-by Phinney. I shall expect your
bid to-morrow. And mind don't try to get the best of me because
you can't do it."
He turned and strutted back up the Boulevard. Sim Phinney
pondering deeply and very grave continued on his way down Cross
Street to Main--naming the village roads was another of the
Williams' "improvements"--and along that to the crossing East
Harniss's business and social center at train times.
The station--everyone called it "deepo" of course--was then a
small red building old and out of date but scrupulously neat
because of Captain Berry's rigid surveillance. Close beside it was
the "Boston Grocery Dry Goods and General Store" Mr. Beriah
Higgins proprietor. Beriah was postmaster and the post office was
in his store. The male citizen of middle age or over seeking
opportunity for companionship and chat usually went first to the
depot sat about in the waiting room until the train came in
superintended that function then sojourned to the post office
until the mail was sorted returning later if he happened to be a
particular friend of the depot master to sit and smoke and yarn
until Captain Sol announced that it was time to "turn in."
When Mr. Phinney entered the little waiting room he found it
already tenanted. Captain Sol had not yet arrived but official
authority was represented by "Issy" McKay--his full name was
Issachar Ulysses Grant McKay--a long-legged freckled-faced tow-
headed youth of twenty who as usual was sprawled along the
settee by the wall engrossed in a paper covered dime novel.
"Issy" was a lover of certain kinds of literature and reveled in
lurid fiction. As a youngster he had at the age of thirteen
after a course of reading in the "Deadwood Dick Library" started
on a pedestrian journey to the Far West where being armed with
home-made tomahawk and scalping knife he contemplated