Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Rudder Grange

Frank Richard Stockton

  Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer


  By Frank R. Stockton



  Treating of a Novel Style of Dwelling-house


  Treating of a Novel Style of Boarder


  Treating of a Novel Style of Girl


  Treating of a Novel Style of Burglar


  Pomona Produces a Partial Revolution in Rudder Grange


  The New Rudder Grange


  Treating of an Unsuccessful Broker and a Dog


  Pomona Once More


  We Camp Out


  Wet Blankets


  The Boarder's Visit


  Lord Edward and the Tree-man


  Pomona's Novel


  Pomona takes a Bridal Trip


  In which two New Friends disport themselves


  In which an Old Friend appears, and the Bridal Trip takes a Fresh Start


  In which we take a Vacation and look for David Dutton


  Our Tavern


  The Baby at Rudder Grange


  The Other Baby at Rudder Grange



  For some months after our marriage, Euphemia and I boarded. But we didnot like it. Indeed, there was no reason why we should like it. Euphemiasaid that she never felt at home except when she was out, which feeling,indicating such an excessively unphilosophic state of mind, was enoughto make me desire to have a home of my own, where, except upon rare andexceptional occasions, my wife would never care to go out.

  If you should want to rent a house, there are three ways to find one.One way is to advertise; another is to read the advertisements of otherpeople. This is a comparatively cheap way. A third method is to apply toan agent. But none of these plans are worth anything. The proper wayis to know some one who will tell you of a house that will exactly suityou. Euphemia and I thoroughly investigated this matter, and I know thatwhat I say is a fact.

  We tried all the plans. When we advertised, we had about a dozenadmirable answers, but in these, although everything seemed to suit, theamount of rent was not named. (None of those in which the rent was namedwould do at all.) And when I went to see the owners, or agents of thesesuitable houses, they asked much higher rents than those mentioned inthe unavailable answers--and this, notwithstanding the fact that theyalways asserted that their terms were either very reasonable or elsegreatly reduced on account of the season being advanced. (It was now thefifteenth of May.)

  Euphemia and I once wrote a book,--this was just before we weremarried,--in which we told young married people how to go tohousekeeping and how much it would cost them. We knew all about it, forwe had asked several people. Now the prices demanded as yearly rentalfor small furnished houses, by the owners and agents of whom I have beenspeaking, were, in many cases, more than we had stated a house could bebought and furnished for!

  The advertisements of other people did not serve any better. There wasalways something wrong about the houses when we made close inquiries,and the trouble was generally in regard to the rent. With agents wehad a little better fortune. Euphemia sometimes went with me on myexpeditions to real estate offices, and she remarked that these officeswere always in the basement, or else you had to go up to them in anelevator. There was nothing between these extremes. And it was a gooddeal the same way, she said, with their houses. They were all very lowindeed in price and quality, or else too high.

  One trouble was that we wanted a house in a country place, not very farfrom the city, and not very far from the railroad station or steamboatlanding. We also wanted the house to be nicely shaded and fullyfurnished, and not to be in a malarial neighborhood, or one infested bymosquitoes.

  "If we do go to housekeeping," said Euphemia, "we might as well get ahouse to suit us while we are about it. Moving is more expensive than afire."

  There was one man who offered us a house that almost suited us. It wasnear the water, had rooms enough, and some--but not very much--ground,and was very accessible to the city. The rent, too, was quitereasonable. But the house was unfurnished. The agent, however, did notthink that this would present any obstacle to our taking it. He wassure that the owner would furnish it if we paid him ten per cent, on thevalue of the furniture he put into it. We agreed that if the landlordwould do this and let us furnish the house according to the plans laiddown in our book, that we would take the house. But unfortunately thisarrangement did not suit the landlord, although he was in the habit offurnishing houses for tenants and charging them ten per cent. on thecost.

  I saw him myself and talked to him about it.

  "But you see," said he, when I had shown him our list of articlesnecessary for the furnishing of a house, "it would not pay me to buyall these things, and rent them out to you. If you only wanted heavyfurniture, which would last for years, the plan would answer, but youwant everything. I believe the small conveniences you have on this listcome to more money than the furniture and carpets."

  "Oh, yes," said I. "We are not so very particular about furnitureand carpets, but these little conveniences are the things that makehousekeeping pleasant, and,--speaking from a common-sense point ofview,--profitable."

  "That may be," he answered, "but I can't afford to make matters pleasantand profitable for you in that way. Now, then, let us look at one or twoparticulars. Here, on your list, is an ice-pick: twenty-five cents.Now, if I buy that ice-pick and rent it to you at two and a-half centsa year, I shall not get my money back unless it lasts you ten years. Andeven then, as it is not probable that I can sell that ice-pick afteryou have used it for ten years, I shall have made nothing at all bymy bargain. And there are other things in that list, such asfeather-dusters and lamp-chimneys, that couldn't possibly last tenyears. Don't you see my position?"

  I saw it. We did not get that furnished house. Euphemia was greatlydisappointed.

  "It would have been just splendid," she said, "to have taken our bookand have ordered all these things at the stores, one after another,without even being obliged to ask the price."

  I had my private doubts in regard to this matter of price. I am afraidthat Euphemia generally set down the lowest price and the best things.She did not mean to mislead, and her plan certainly made our bookattractive. But it did not work very well in practice. We have a friendwho undertook to furnish her house by our book, and she never could getthe things as cheaply as we had them quoted.

  "But you see," said Euphemia, to her, "we had to put them down at verylow prices, because the model house we speak of in the book is to beentirely furnished for just so much."

  But, in spite of this explanation, the lady was not satisfied.

  We found ourselves obliged to give up the idea of a furnished house. Wewould have taken an unfurnished one and furnished it ourselves, but wehad not money enough. We were dreadfully afraid that we should have tocontinue to board.

  It was now getting on toward summer, at least there was only a part ofa month of spring left, and whenever I could get off from my businessEuphemia and I made little excursions into the country round about thecity. One afternoon we went up the river, and there we saw a sight thattransfixed us, a
s it were. On the bank, a mile or so above the city,stood a canal-boat. I say stood, because it was so firmly imbeddedin the ground by the river-side, that it would have been almost asimpossible to move it as to have turned the Sphinx around. This boat wesoon found was inhabited by an oyster-man and his family. They had livedthere for many years and were really doing quite well. The boat wasdivided, inside, into rooms, and these were papered and painted andnicely furnished. There was a kitchen, a living-room, a parlor andbedrooms. There were all sorts of conveniences--carpets on the floors,pictures, and everything, at least so it seemed to us, to make a homecomfortable. This was not all done at once, the oyster-man told me. Theyhad lived there for years and had gradually added this and that untilthe place was as we saw it. He had an oyster-bed out in the river andhe made cider in the winter, but where he got the apples I don't know.There was really no reason why he should not get rich in time.

  Well, we went all over that house and we praised everything so much thatthe oyster-man's wife was delighted, and when we had some stewed oystersafterward,--eating them at a little table under a tree near by,--Ibelieve that she picked out the very largest oysters she had, to stewfor us. When we had finished our supper and had paid for it, and weregoing down to take our little boat again,--for we had rowed up theriver,--Euphemia stopped and looked around her. Then she clasped herhands and exclaimed in an ecstatic undertone:

  "We must have a canal-boat!"

  And she never swerved from that determination.

  After I had seriously thought over the matter, I could see no goodreason against adopting this plan. It would certainly be a cheap methodof living, and it would really be housekeeping. I grew more and more infavor of it. After what the oyster-man had done, what might not we do?HE had never written a book on housekeeping, nor, in all probability,had he considered the matter, philosophically, for one moment in all hislife.

  But it was not an easy thing to find a canal-boat. There were noneadvertised for rent--at least, not for housekeeping purposes.

  We made many inquiries and took many a long walk along the water-coursesin the vicinity of the city, but all in vain. Of course, we talked agreat deal about our project and our friends became greatly interestedin it, and, of course, too, they gave us a great deal of advice, but wedidn't mind that. We were philosophical enough to know that you can'thave shad without bones. They were good friends and, by being careful inregard to the advice, it didn't interfere with our comfort.

  We were beginning to be discouraged, at least Euphemia was. Herdiscouragement is like water-cresses, it generally comes up in a veryshort time after she sows her wishes. But then it withers away rapidly,which is a comfort. One evening we were sitting, rather disconsolately,in our room, and I was reading out the advertisements of country boardin a newspaper, when in rushed Dr. Heare--one of our old friends. He wasso full of something that he had to say that he didn't even ask us howwe were. In fact, he didn't appear to want to know.

  "I tell you what it is," said he, "I have found just the very thing youwant."

  "A canal-boat?" I cried.

  "Yes," said he, "a canal-boat."

  "Furnished?" asked Euphemia, her eyes glistening.

  "Well, no," answered the doctor, "I don't think you could expect that."

  "But we can't live on the bare floor," said Euphemia; "our house MUST befurnished."

  "Well, then, I suppose this won't do," said the doctor, ruefully, "forthere isn't so much as a boot-jack in it. It has most things thatare necessary for a boat, but it hasn't anything that you could callhouse-furniture; but, dear me, I should think you could furnish it verycheaply and comfortably out of your book."

  "Very true," said Euphemia, "if we could pick out the cheapest thingsand then get some folks to buy a lot of the books."

  "We could begin with very little," said I, trying hard to keep calm.

  "Certainly," said the doctor, "you need make no more rooms, at first,than you could furnish."

  "Then there are no rooms," said Euphemia.

  "No, there is nothing but one vast apartment extending from stem tostern."

  "Won't it be glorious!" said Euphemia to me. "We can first make akitchen, and then a dining-room, and a bedroom, and then a parlor--justin the order in which our book says they ought to be furnished."

  "Glorious!" I cried, no longer able to contain my enthusiasm; "I shouldthink so. Doctor, where is this canal-boat?"

  The doctor then went into a detailed statement. The boat was strandedon the shore of the Scoldsbury river not far below Ginx's. We knew whereGinx's was, because we had spent a very happy day there, during ourhoneymoon.

  The boat was a good one, but superannuated. That, however, did notinterfere with its usefulness as a dwelling. We could get it--the doctorhad seen the owner--for a small sum per annum, and here was positivelyno end to its capabilities.

  We sat up until twenty minutes past two, talking about that house. Weceased to call it a boat at about a quarter of eleven.

  The next day I "took" the boat and paid a month's rent in advance. Threedays afterward we moved into it.

  We had not much to move, which was a comfort, looking at it from onepoint of view. A carpenter had put up two partitions in it which madethree rooms--a kitchen, a dining-room and a very long bedroom, whichwas to be cut up into a parlor, study, spare-room, etc., as soon ascircumstances should allow, or my salary should be raised. Originally,all the doors and windows were in the roof, so to speak, but ourlandlord allowed us to make as many windows to the side of the boatas we pleased, provided we gave him the wood we cut out. It saved himtrouble, he said, but I did not understand him at the time. Accordingly,the carpenter made several windows for us, and put in sashes, whichopened on hinges like the hasp of a trunk. Our furniture did not amountto much, at first. The very thought of living in this independent,romantic way was so delightful, Euphemia said, that furniture seemed amere secondary matter.

  We were obliged indeed to give up the idea of following the plandetailed in our book, because we hadn't the sum upon which thefurnishing of a small house was therein based.

  "And if we haven't the money," remarked Euphemia, "it would be of noearthly use to look at the book. It would only make us doubt our owncalculations. You might as well try to make brick without mortar, as thechildren of Israel did."

  "I could do that myself, my dear," said I, "but we won't discuss thatsubject now. We will buy just what we absolutely need, and then work upfrom that."

  Acting on this plan, we bought first a small stove, because Euphemiasaid that we could sleep on the floor, if it were necessary, but wecouldn't make a fire on the floor--at least not often. Then we gota table and two chairs. The next thing we purchased was some hangingshelves for our books, and Euphemia suddenly remembered the kitchenthings. These, which were few, with some crockery, nearly brought us tothe end of our resources, but we had enough for a big easy-chair whichEuphemia was determined I should have, because I really needed it whenI came home at night, tired with my long day's work at the office. I hadalways been used to an easy-chair, and it was one of her most delightfuldreams to see me in a real nice one, comfortably smoking my pipe in myown house, after eating my own delicious little supper in company withmy own dear wife. We selected the chair, and then we were about to orderthe things sent out to our future home, when I happened to think that wehad no bed. I called Euphemia's attention to the fact.

  She was thunderstruck.

  "I never thought of that," she said. "We shall have to give up thestove."

  "Not at all," said I, "we can't do that. We must give up theeasy-chair."

  "Oh, that would be too bad," said she. "The house would seem likenothing to me without the chair!"

  "But we must do without it, my dear," said I, "at least for a while. Ican sit out on deck and smoke of an evening, you know."

  "Yes," said Euphemia. "You can sit on the bulwarks and I can sit by you.That will do very well. I'm sure I'm glad the boat has bulwarks."

  So we resigned the
easy-chair and bought a bedstead and some very plainbedding. The bedstead was what is sometimes called a "scissors-bed."We could shut it up when we did not want to sleep in it, and stand itagainst the wall.

  When we packed up our trunks and left the boarding-house Euphemia fairlyskipped with joy.

  We went down to Ginx's in the first boat, having arranged that ourfurniture should be sent to us in the afternoon. We wanted to be thereto receive it. The trip was just wildly delirious. The air was charming.The sun was bright, and I had a whole holiday. When we reached Ginx's wefound that the best way to get our trunks and ourselves to our house wasto take a carriage, and so we took one. I told the driver to drive alongthe river road and I would tell him where to stop.

  When we reached our boat, and had alighted, I said to the driver:

  "You can just put our trunks inside, anywhere."

  The man looked at the trunks and then looked at the boat. Afterward helooked at me.

  "That boat ain't goin' anywhere," said he.

  "I should think not," said Euphemia. "We shouldn't want to live in it,if it were."

  "You are going to live in it?" said the man.

  "Yes," said Euphemia.

  "Oh!" said the man, and he took our trunks on board, without anotherword.

  It was not very easy for him to get the trunks into our new home.In fact it was not easy for us to get there ourselves. There was agang-plank, with a rail on one side of it, which inclined from the shoreto the deck of the boat at an angle of forty-five degrees, and when theman had staggered up this plank with the trunks (Euphemia said I oughtto have helped him, but I really thought that it would be better for oneperson to fall off the plank than for two to go over together), andwe had paid him, and he had driven away in a speechless condition, wescrambled up and stood upon the threshold, or, rather, the after-deck ofour home.

  It was a proud moment. Euphemia glanced around, her eyes full of happytears, and then she took my arm and we went down stairs--at least wetried to go down in that fashion, but soon found it necessary to go oneat a time. We wandered over the whole extent of our mansion and foundthat our carpenter had done his work better than the woman whom we hadengaged to scrub and clean the house. Something akin to despair musthave seized upon her, for Euphemia declared that the floors lookeddirtier than on the occasion of her first visit, when we rented theboat.

  But that didn't discourage us. We felt sure that we should get it cleanin time.

  Early in the afternoon our furniture arrived, together with the otherthings we had bought, and the men who brought them over from thesteamboat landing had the brightest, merriest faces I ever noticed amongthat class of people. Euphemia said it was an excellent omen tohave such cheerful fellows come to us on the very first day of ourhousekeeping.

  Then we went to work. I put up the stove, which was not much trouble,as there was a place all ready in the deck for the stove-pipe to be runthrough. Euphemia was somewhat surprised at the absence of a chimney,but I assured her that boats were very seldom built with chimneys. Mydear little wife bustled about and arranged the pots and kettles onnails that I drove into the kitchen walls. Then she made the bed in thebed-room and I hung up a looking-glass and a few little pictures that wehad brought in our trunks.

  Before four o'clock our house was in order. Then we began to be veryhungry.

  "My dear," said Euphemia, "we ought to have thought to bring somethingto cook."

  "That is very true," said I, "but I think perhaps we had better walkup to Ginx's and get our supper to-night. You see we are so tired andhungry."

  "What!" cried Euphemia, "go to a hotel the very first day? I think itwould be dreadful! Why, I have been looking forward to this first mealwith the greatest delight. You can go up to the little store by thehotel and buy some things and I will cook them, and we will have ourfirst dear little meal here all alone by ourselves, at our own table andin our own house."

  So this was determined upon and, after a hasty counting of the fund Ihad reserved for moving and kindred expenses, and which had been sorelydepleted during the day, I set out, and in about an hour returned withmy first marketing.

  I made a fire, using a lot of chips and blocks the carpenter had left,and Euphemia cooked the supper, and we ate it from our little table,with two large towels for a table-cloth.

  It was the most delightful meal I ever ate!

  And, when we had finished, Euphemia washed the dishes (the thoughtfulcreature had put some water on the stove to heat for the purpose,while we were at supper) and then we went on deck, or on the piazza, asEuphemia thought we had better call it, and there we had our smoke. Isay WE, for Euphemia always helps me to smoke by sitting by me, and sheseems to enjoy it as much as I do.

  And when the shades of evening began to gather around us, I hauled inthe gang-plank (just like a delightful old draw-bridge, Euphemia said,although I hope for the sake of our ancestors that draw-bridges wereeasier to haul in) and went to bed.

  It is lucky we were tired and wanted to go to bed early, for we hadforgotten all about lamps or candles.

  For the next week we were two busy and happy people. I rose abouthalf-past five and made the fire,--we found so much wood on the shore,that I thought I should not have to add fuel to my expenses,--andEuphemia cooked the breakfast. I then went to a well belonging to acottage near by where we had arranged for water-privileges, and filledtwo buckets with delicious water and carried them home for Euphemia'suse through the day. Then I hurried off to catch the train, for, asthere was a station near Ginx's, I ceased to patronize the steamboat,the hours of which were not convenient. After a day of work andpleasurable anticipation at the office, I hastened back to my home,generally laden with a basket of provisions and various householdnecessities. Milk was brought to us daily from the above-mentionedcottage by a little toddler who seemed just able to carry the small tinbucket which held a lacteal pint. If the urchin had been the child ofrich parents, as Euphemia sometimes observed, he would have been in hisnurse's arms--but being poor, he was scarcely weaned before he began tocarry milk around to other people.

  After I reached home came supper and the delightful evening hours,when over my pipe (I had given up cigars, as being too expensive andinappropriate, and had taken to a tall pipe and canaster tobacco) wetalked and planned, and told each other our day's experience.

  One of our earliest subjects of discussion was the name of ourhomestead. Euphemia insisted that it should have a name. I was quitewilling, but we found it no easy matter to select an appropriate title.I proposed a number of appellations intended to suggest the character ofour home. Among these were: "Safe Ashore," "Firmly Grounded," and someother names of that style, but Euphemia did not fancy any of them. Shewanted a suitable name, of course, she said, but it must be somethingthat would SOUND like a house and BE like a boat.

  "Partitionville," she objected to, and "Gangplank Terrace," did not suither because it suggested convicts going out to work, which naturally wasunpleasant.

  At last, after days of talk and cogitation, we named our house "RudderGrange."

  To be sure, it wasn't exactly a grange, but then it had such an enormousrudder that the justice of that part of the title seemed to over-balanceany little inaccuracy in the other portion.

  But we did not spend all our spare time in talking. An hour or two,every evening was occupied in what we called "fixing the house," andgradually the inside of our abode began to look like a conventionaldwelling. We put matting on the floors and cheap but very pretty paperon the walls. We added now a couple of chairs, and now a table orsomething for the kitchen. Frequently, especially of a Sunday, we hadcompany, and our guests were always charmed with Euphemia's cunninglittle meals. The dear girl loved good eating so much that she couldscarcely fail to be a good cook.

  We worked hard, and were very happy. And thus the weeks passed on.