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All My Sad Captains
by [?]

I.

Mrs. Peter Lunn was a plump little woman who bobbed her head like a pigeon when she walked. Her best dress was a handsome, if not new, black silk which Captain Lunn, her lamented husband, had bought many years before in the port of Bristol. The decline of shipping interests had cost this worthy shipmaster not only the better part of his small fortune, but also his health and spirits; and he had died a poor man at last, after a long and trying illness. Such a lingering disorder, with its hopes and despairs, rarely affords the same poor compensations to a man that it does to a woman; the claims upon public interest and consideration, the dignity of being assailed by any ailment out of the common course–all these things are to a man but the details of his general ignominy and impatience.

Captain Peter Lunn may have indulged in no sense of his own consequence and uniqueness as an invalid; but his wife bore herself as a woman should who was the heroine in so sad a drama, and she went and came across the provincial stage, knowing that her audience was made up of nearly the whole population of that little seaside town. When the curtain had fallen at last, and the old friends–seafaring men and others and their wives–had come home from Captain Lunn’s funeral, and had spoken their friendly thoughts, and reviewed his symptoms for what seemed to them to be the last time, everybody was conscious of a real anxiety. The future of the captain’s widow was sadly uncertain, for every one was aware that Mrs. Lunn could now depend upon only a scant provision. She was much younger than her husband, having been a second wife, and she was thrifty and ingenious; but her outlook was acknowledged to be anything but cheerful. In truth, the honest grief that she displayed in the early days of her loss was sure to be better understood with the ancient proverb in mind, that a lean sorrow is hardest to bear.

To everybody’s surprise, however, this able woman succeeded in keeping the old Lunn house painted to the proper perfection of whiteness; there never were any loose bricks to be seen on the tops of her chimneys. The relics of the days of her prosperity kept an air of comfortable continuance in the days of her adversity. The best black silk held its own nobly, and the shining roundness of its handsome folds aided her in looking prosperous and fit for all social occasions. She lived alone, and was a busy and unprocrastinating housekeeper. She may have made less raspberry jam than in her earlier days, but it was always pound for pound; while her sponge-cake was never degraded in its ingredients from the royal standard of twelve eggs. The honest English and French stuffs that had been used in the furnishing of the captain’s house so many years before faded a little as the years passed by, but they never wore out. Yet one cannot keep the same money in one’s purse, if one is never so thrifty, and so Mrs. Lunn came at last to feel heavy at heart and deeply troubled. To use the common phrase of her neighbors, it was high time for her to make a change. She had now been living alone for four years, and it must be confessed that all those friends who had admired her self-respect and self-dependence began to take a keener interest than ever in her plans and behavior.

The first indication of Mrs. Lunn’s new purpose in life was her mournful allusion to those responsibilities which so severely tax the incompetence of a lone woman. She felt obliged to ask advice of a friend; in fact, she asked the advice of three friends, and each responded with a cordiality delightful to describe. It happened that there were no less than three retired shipmasters in the old seaport town of Longport who felt the justice of our heroine’s claims upon society. She was not only an extremely pleasing person, but she had the wisdom to conceal from Captain Asa Shaw that she had taken any one for an intimate counselor but himself; and the same secrecy was observed out of deference to the feelings and pride of Captain Crowe and Captain Witherspoon. The deplored necessity of re-shingling her roof was the great case in which she threw herself upon their advice and assistance.