A ‘Harry’ Halloween
I’d promised my sister Edith that I’d try to be home for her 15th birthday, which wasn’t
going to be an easy task, as our home port was Norfolk, VA when Nautilus wasn’t on patrol. But for once it looked like
the boat would in port at the same time that I could travel the distance to Boston and return in time before my leave ran
The Butler, into whose charge I’d placed her once it was pretty clear the Nanny wasn’t needed any longer,
had sent me a few photos, and I was shocked. My brotherly, almost paternal protectiveness
went into overdrive. In my own defense, I’m a guy. I knew how guys think and nobody who wanted to keep their gonads
intact had better try anything with her.
Oh gawd, what if she actually had gone on a few dates? I was getting pretty darn worried and needed to have a little
talk with her about certain…well, things.
I was in one crappy mood when I suddenly had one of those brilliant ideas. I couldn’t help noticing how young
Lee looked. Well, of course he looked young. He was young: in fact, Ensign Crane
wasn’t even 22 yet. Perhaps, just perhaps, he could take Edith’s
mind off of any of those boys that might have been sniffing around. And perhaps
if he escorted her someplace or another, they’d get the idea that she was taken by an ‘older man’ and ignore
her. Don’t get me wrong. I was all for the love, marriage, and baby carriage that was sure to come her way someday.
But that was years away and she was far too young for romance right now anyway.
The problem was tricking Lee into accompanying me to Boston. The thought of a few days stuck with the ‘Old Man’
especially while on his own leave, couldn’t have been all that appealing, so it was with a little trepidation that I
broached the subject.
I masked my motive by waxing on about a potential visit to the Maritime Museum- but I would have a hard time researching
some documentation on weird fish without help-(everyone knew I had an obsession and most of my crew laughed about their scientist
I mentioned how good it would be to visit Old Ironsides again, (I knew
he had a passion for the golden olden days of full sail), the Boston Yacht Club (I was a card carrying member), and perhaps
a meal or two at the famed Oyster House. (Not that I knew if he liked oysters, but I did know he grew up in New England, so
he might have a predilection for them. Besides, they served other food as well. It was a real landmark; full of history and
folklore, one of the oldest continuous eateries the country.)
And since I had a spare round trip ticket, (I lied about it having won it in a raffle) I asked if he could use it. My
trump card being that I knew he had family in nearby Cape Cod.
So it was Lee who actually suggested that he could assist me in the Museum, before heading on off to see his Mother
and Aunt. If I wanted to put that spare ticket to good use, that is. Of course, I was ‘delighted’ and soon Lee
and I were on our way to Boston, he to stay a few days as my guest.
I don’t think he was quite expecting the old Nelson homestead to look like something out of a Dickens’ novel.
It was an impressive mansion, if a bit spooky, what with parts of old ships having been used in part of the original construction.
As Lee and the cabbie brought our gear into the entry, I was nearly swept off my feet by the girl in the jeans, sweater
and curlers sliding down the bannister smacking right into me.
“Harry!” she embraced me before she saw I wasn’t alone.
“Edith, this is Lee Crane, Ensign Lee Crane. He’ll be staying with us briefly to help me do some research
at the Maritime Museum.”
If I’d expected a well taught and refined response I was sadly mistaken.
All she did was giggle after staring at Lee in a moment of what looked to me of sheer unmitigated lust. (Lust at her
age? Well, okay, so Lee Crane was cute, I’d give him that. Tall, dark, and handsome in that Hollywoodish ‘Ken’
doll way, or at least that was how I tried to minimize his effect on her)
“Miss Nelson,” Lee extended his hand.
“Uh…”she giggled again, “Hi.”
“Don’t you have a party to get ready for Miss Edith?” ‘Boodle’s, (a long time nickname
of our Butler) asked, checking his watch. “Daniel should be here soon and you sure don’t want him to see you in
Oh yes, my worst fears were indeed being realized. Not that she was in curlers. But that this ‘boy’ had
a name, and had apparently asked her for a date.
“It’s just a Halloween costume party at the high school,” Boodles saw my scowl as Edith ran up the
stairs “They’re holding it this weekend, since the day’s actually going to be Monday night. He’s a
“Senior?” I gulped.
“He’s a good boy, really sir if you can get past some of his idiosyncrasies. If you’ll follow me Ensign
Crane, I’ll show you your room. No, I’ll get those, sir,” he picked up our gear.(We’d traveled light)
“ We weren’t expecting you make it, Cap’n. Miss Edith’s going to be awfully happy.”
“When is her birthday?” Lee asked as we climbed the impressive
“Oh, Did I forget to tell you, Lee?” I rang the old ship’s bell on the landing (a kind of Nelson tradition
for returning sailors). Halloween.”
“Yes, poor Miss Edith’s always had a hard time of it;” Boodles said, “the Halloween fun always
getting in the way of her own special day. Didn’t even invite anyone over for a birthday party this time,” he
added under his breath. “Said it would be just too much trouble, but actually, I
think she’s grown tired of having to remind her friends that Halloween was her birthday too.”
Lee and I, freshly showered and changed, me into some rather dumpy sweats, Lee into black jeans and red flannel shirt,
were enjoying a ‘light snack’ when ‘Mrs. Cook’, (who happened to be
the cook) decided my guest could use a few additional freshly baked cookies and
plunked down about a half dozen onto his already overflowing plate. (She never brought me extra cookies, I thought sourly.)
But it wasn’t unreasonable, I chided myself. Besides, Lee looked especially
boyish with his damp curly hair, and as he was indeed, on the thin side. It might do him some good.
When the doorbell rang, Lee rather automatically rose to get it, plate of cookies still in hand.
“Tell Miss Edith I’m here, that’s a good man,” the teenager aka ‘the Oz Scarecrow’
said, taking Lee’s plate and helping himself to a cookie.
“You’re welcome,” Lee muttered and sought out he butler who’d appeared as if by magic.
“I don’t believe I’ve met you,” I rose to greet
“And you are?” the boy asked, a bit condescending.
“Nelson. Captain Nelson.”
“Ah, the big man himself. Daniel. Daniel Webster. No. No joke. And no relation to the big guy, at least hasn’t
been proven to anyone’s satisfaction.”
“This is Ensign Crane,” I grabbed the plate back, “and these are his
Just then, Edith came down the stairs.
“I thought you were supposed to be going as the Wicked Witch of the West,” Boodle’s said, confused.
“Changed my mind,” she giggled.
Edith had indeed changed her mind. She was in a strapless full length green gown, with a décolletage that had no business
being on anyone, let alone my sister. She was also wearing the rather priceless Nelson diamond and emerald necklace, tiara,
ring, and bracelet. While they were hers, it had long been assumed that they wouldn’t see the light of day, or candlelight,
until she was married. They sparkled so much that I felt like I should hire a
Brink’s security guard just to accompany them to the party. )But that wasn’t the only thing on my mind.
“Get your tongue back in your mouth Ensign,” I hissed at Lee, staring
at her with his mouth agape. Daniel was also appreciating the view, with what? Anticipation?
Then I had another brilliant idea.
“Edie, honey, I was just thinking. Lee here hasn’t had a chance to enjoy a Halloween party in quite a while,
perhaps he can go along? I’m sure you won’t mind Daniel, no I’m sure you won’t, that’s a good
man. Introduce him to the principal; show him some of that Boston hospitality
we’re famous for.”
“Skipper,” Lee took me aside, “what are you up to?” he whispered, “This is a kid’s
“Does she look like a kid?” I whispered back, “Keep an
eye on him, that’s all I ask. Please Lee?”
“Well, okay but…”
“Harry, darling,” Edith interrupted ‘whatever it was’ that we were discussing privately, “Don’t
you think Ensign Crane should change? A tux would be nice. Perhaps Grandfather’s. Yours would never do… and make sure he has a green cumberbund. There should
be some emerald cufflinks lying around someplace. C’mon Daniel, we can get in a few rounds of Foosball while we wait.”
For a moment all we could do was to stare as they disappeared down the hall and into the game room.
“Skipper…I have a bad feeling about this…”
“Nonsense, Lad,” I led him back upstairs, and helped myself to one of the cookies.
Daniel had driven in a flashy blue import, I noticed. Just the thing for impressing an impressionable young girl. But
then, if she’d been impressed with Lee in jeans, she was certain to be impressed with Lee in Grandfather’s tux.
I waved goodbye but was beginning to feel a little guilty. The problem was that I’d, in effect, ordered a subordinate to do something I had no business drafting him to do. If I’d wanted a chaperone, I
could have hired one. I had plenty of contacts in Boston who’d have been more than happy to oblige at a moment’s
notice, but then, Edith would have had a fit if she knew I didn’t trust her. Oh I trusted her, just nobody of the male
gender, except Lee. He was in effect, insurance.
I had to pat myself on the back for my ingenuity. After all, she no doubt had changed into that gown to exercise her
feminine wiles, (to impress Lee no doubt); and Daniel apparently had a rival for Edith’s affections, if only in their
imagination. To top it off, Daniel’s mere 17 years were no match to Lee’s 21, debonair, dashing, and I had no
The evening had hardly begun and I had stuffed myself with most of Lee’s cookies and was enjoying the comfort
of a roaring blaze in the fireplace while I reacquainted myself with Moby Dick when Boodles interrupted; police were at the
Edith took one look at me and shouted ‘Men!’ and raced upstairs.
“Any connection to a,” he pulled out a form,” a Lee Crane?”
“He’s my fifth officer…er…house guest…”
“You wanna’ bail him out or let him stew?”
“Ohmygod…what the hell happened?”
“Seems he assaulted somebody..”
“Assaulted? That’s impossible! I know Lee Crane, he’d never…”
“Well, I don’t know about that, but it seems he overheard the girl’s date bragging to his
friends how come hell or high water he was going to get to third base with her. Well, no sooner than the words were out of
his mouth, your man punched him in the jaw.”
“Oh lord,” I must have run a hand through my hair; actually it was a mannerism of Lee’s that I picked
up… and it was all my fault. Lee was just following orders…
“Why don’t you to come down to the station so we can discuss
it further. Kid’s father is already there.”
“Well?” Daniel Webster Sr., demanded an answer from his son at the Chief of Police’s desk, as I stayed
well in the background, unnoticed by the man, “did you say those things or not?”
“It was guy talk Pops,” the boy said, or tried to,( his jaw was swollen,) “ that’s all just
guy talk. I never would have done anything for real…”
“Officer, I think perhaps I’ll withdraw the charges. I don’t condone what that man did to my son,
but if I had a sister or a friend who had a sister, I’d probably act in
haste first myself and ask questions later. We’ll discuss this more, Daniel. By the way, you’re grounded.”
“Me? He hit me! I didn’t hit him!”
“Then maybe you’ll learn that your words, even in jest, have consequences. As for Nelson’s guest,” he spat vitriol as he’d finally noticed me, (My face was pretty familiar to those of my own
generation at least) no doubt the Navy will have something to say about this. Crane’s
career is over. So justice is served. Come along.”
Just then Lee was being led to another desk to retrieve his personal items. A watch (inexpensive but accurate enough
for sub duty) and a black onyx ring he was never without. I couldn’t help
noticing the female staff ogling him. Even rumpled, they seemed to find him attractive.
“It’s not fair,” Daniel Jr. muttered as he passed by Crane, glaring at him, “It’s just
not fair. All the girls kept staring at him at the party too…just not fair.”
And I suppose it wasn’t fair either that nothing ( well, almost nothing) was to come of Lee’s, ‘conduct
unbecoming’. While I promised my errant Ensign that I’d be filing an official
report for the Navy, the fact remained (which I didn’t verbalize) that I was personally relieved that Daniel hadn’t
made it to third base. For all his ‘guy talk’, it may have been one short step away to acting on it.
“Skipper…I...I’m sorry,” Lee said in the cab, “ I acted on impulse…but when he said
that about Edith, well, I snapped…and…”
“We’ll discuss it later Ensign.”
“I said we’ll discuss it later.”
It was an unpleasant and quiet ride home.
“Boodles? The reserve. As for you Lee, sit, stay,” I ordered
Lee before he could go upstairs to change.
Boodles returned shortly with two crystal tumblers and a rather dusty bottle of sealed Glen Livet.
I broke the seal and poured out two measures, handing Lee one.
“What’s this for? Aren’t I going to be Court Martialed?”
“Possibly. That damn boy!”
“Sir? I’m the one who…”
“You? Lee, you probably
saved Edith from becoming a ‘sadder but wiser girl’, as the saying goes. I do agree you might have handled it
a bit differently, and no doubt there will be some official recriminations for conduct unbecoming, but frankly, if I’d
been there, Daniel would have garnered more than just a sore jaw. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m suddenly
hungry for a bit more than cookies. How about a light meal at the Union Oyster House?”
“Well, okay…but first, can I get out of this tux?”
“Of course and it’s my treat so don’t decide on which meal is cheapest.”
“You’d better change too,” Edith called from the top of the stairs, back in jeans and sweater, “I refuse to be seen with you in
those sweats. ”
“I didn’t know you were invited.”
“Ah c’mon Harry. Ensign ‘Goody two shoes’ ruined
my entire evening. You owe me. By the way you moron,” she addressed Crane who was on the middle of the stairs, “I
can take care of myself. Daniel would never have gotten away with anything. Here,”
she handed him some keys,” You’re driving…you can drive, can’t you.”
He saluted her and continued his path upstairs.
“Its’…a bit old fashioned, isn’t it…”Lee whispered to me, of the 1920 Silver Ghost
Limousine in the oversized and otherwise empty garage.
“It’s that or nothing,” Boodles said, “the town car is in the shop. Don’t worry, Cap’n,”
he told me, “she had her annual checkup a few months ago and we always turn her on for a few minutes every month,”
he blew some of the dust off the windshield.
“Well, don’t just stand there, Harry,” Edith got in. “You did manage to get reservations didn’t
you? If we don’t get seated right away I’m sure I’ll faint dead away.”
Crane hopped into the driver’s seat, and we sped off. As fast as a 1920’s car could go that was.
Pulling up to the Oyster House, Lee was about to drop us off when it happened. The squeal of tires, a sickening crunch,
and shattering glass from a drunk driver who’d apparently over corrected, lost control, and veered into our lane, smashing
into the Ghost head on.
“You okay honey?” I asked nervously as Edith and I got out.
It was apparent to the congregating passersby and the quickly arriving police, that we were the innocent, (and injured) party, if the blood streaming from Lee’s forehead meant anything) A tow truck was called for both cars, and the Oyster House’s management quickly asked its patrons
if there was a doctor in the house.
There was, and Lee’s wound was ministered to with a little iodine and bandages. Nothing serious, the MD assured
us, just a scalp wound, no sign of a concussion, and the gentleman returned to his dinner. I
suggested we go home, but was outvoted by both Edith and Lee.
After the initial excitement amongst the diners, things settled down and it was interesting to witness just about every
woman in the place looking at Lee with undisguised delight. Some, with soppy smiles that only a mother or grandmother can
give. Others, with that same lusting look (in various degrees) that I’d been surprised to see Edith have.
Our waitress, one of the lusting ones, waxed on and on about the history
of the place after we’d ordered. Anything, it seemed, to enable her to linger and stare at the young man. The wounded young man. Perhaps that was it, the maternal ‘let me take care of you’ attitude most women
had for poor defenseless creatures. No, it was a predatory look, and Edith sensed it.
“While I’m sure Lee would love to have a history lesson, ”Edith
stressed, “we’re here to eat.”
Brrrr.. And since when had she started to call her nemesis Lee?
“Of course, Miss. I just thought your boyfriend would enjoy learning about the time that Daniel Webster…”
“Daniel Webster?” Lee winced.
“Yes, great statesman of the 1800’s. Was a regular guest here. 6
plates of oysters with his Brandy every day, usually for breakfast.”
Edith coughed politely, if exaggerated.
“Perhaps we should let you return to your duties,” Lee took the hint, then, with a hint of a grin, “
add a half dozen raw oysters to my order. Can’t come to an oyster house
without having any bivalves. And I’ll have a Brandy too. Oh, and by the way,” he gave her one of ‘those’ looks (halfway between angelic and demonic, I wasn’t sure) I’m not
I wondered if he’d be able to return home with his anatomy intact, Edith looked so much like a lioness ready to
pounce and rip him to shreds.
I tried to engage the two into some polite conversation while we waited for our order to arrive, but it was rather one
sided on my part and it was a relief not to have to repeat myself again on the biology of the mollusk, when we were served.
“How are your oysters, Ensign,” Edith broke her silence.
“Oh about as well as can be expected for a filter feeder,” Lee slurped his down like a pro. “You know
Skipper, these are supposed to help the libido. Any truth to it? I’ve always
wondered…of course, I might have a chance now to prove or disprove it to myself,” he pointedly eyed our waitress
who was over by the bar.
For a moment I wasn’t sure if he was asking for information or simply taunting Edith.
“Really Ensign,” Edith said, “discussing one’s libido or your lack of it at the dinner table is not considered good manners. At
least, not in Boston.”
“Neither is acting like a spoilt brat. The waitress was only being nice.”
“Nice? Another few minutes and she’d have unzipped your pants
and sat on your lap!”
“Children, children…enough!” I choked, “Edith, I’m surprised at you! More than that, disgusted! And Lee…you’d do well to remember you’re supposed to be an
officer and a gentleman, no matter what the insult. Now, let’s just enjoy the food, hm? You know, the Union Oyster house
was dry goods store in the 1700’s. Patriots mingled here, even had a printing press on the second floor…then in
the Civil War it…”I began to ramble.
The clam chowder, known to be the best in the country, took a back seat to the historical significance of the oldest
continuous restaurant in American history. It was old hat to Edith. She’d grown up in Boston and no doubt knew all about
its history without it being printed on the paper placemats beneath our plates.
“Ah, that explains the folks in costume over there,” Lee said. “I suppose they get into the spirit
of things all the time, not just this time of year.”
“What costume’s Lee?” I asked.
“They were just over there, ”he pointed, “ the man with
the pewter plate, and the lady in the mob cap and the man in the red breeches…they
must’ve left by a back door near the fireplace.”
“There is no fireplace anymore…it was bricked over a long time ago.”
“Must have been a paper decoration they took with them.”
“You should have made him get an X-ray, Harry. He’s seeing
“The doc said I was fine.”
“She may be right Lad. We can get these things wrapped up to take home.”
“No please Skipper, I don’t want to spoil anyone’s evening.”
“You’ve already done that,” Edith said.
“Edith!” I growled.
“What you need is a good spanking,” Lee told her coolly.
“Ohhh!” Edith rose, furious, “ You.. you…I want him out of the house Harry. I mean it!”
“Now wait a minute.”
“He can still help you with your blasted fish, but I won’t have him in my house.”
“It’s my house too young lady, and I say he stays.”
“Skipper, it really might be for the best,” Lee rose,”
I’ll uh, be in the bar and let you finish your meal in peace, Miss Nelson,”
he picked up his plate, “I’ll get my own cab back, Skipper. Then I’ll pack up and go. “
“You’ll do nothing of the kind. At least not tonight. We’ll
talk more in the morning.”
“Very well,” he sighed, “But I’ll still get my own cab back.”
“All right but don’t overdo the bar, I’m still concerned
about that head wound.”
“I hope you’re happy,” I grumbled to Edith as he vacated his chair.
“I only will be if you
kick him out. Are you going to finish those scallops or not….”
It was late when I heard him rummaging around in his room. I knocked, opened the door slightly and was overwhelmed by
the smell brandy and the scent of oysters in the air, so he must have really
tied one on…
“It’s not me,” he surprised me by turning from being under the covers, wincing at the light from the
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine…and I’m not drunk. It’s him.”
“Him? Who’s ‘him’?”
“How the hell should I know, ” Lee pointed to the rocking chair (which wasn’t rocking). “He
followed me home and I can’t get rid of him.”
“There’s nobody there, Lee.”
“Sure there is, he’s taking another swig of Brandy.”
“That does it; you’re going to the hospital.”
“Harry what is it?” Edith appeared, in fuzzy bathrobe and slippers.
“I’m not hallucinating and I’m not drunk! He followed me home. Can’t you smell him?”
“Lee, lad,” I said gently, and sat next to him on the bed. “Nobody’s followed you home like
a stray dog. You’re imagining things.”
“But he’s right there!”
“Well, this is great, Harry,” Edith pouted, “Not only does he abuse our hospitality, he’s soused.”
“His breath’s not bad, just the room…and he’s not unwelcome. Look at me, Lad. Edith, turn on
the light….well, there’s no change in your pupils so it’s not a concussion…”
“All right, a all right, what does it want?” I tried to humor
“Hasn’t said. Just stares and grins at me. ..and you might
want to check your liquor cabinet. He’s headed back downstairs.”
Edith shivered, “I keep telling you we need a new heating system. What a cold draft…hey, it doesn’t
stink in here anymore.”
“I told you, he’s gone downstairs, ” Lee said, “he’s
thirsty, or you scared him away.”
“Scarred him awa…I don’t scare anyone away Ensign Crane! Now, as I was saying, if you’re not
drunk or hallucinating that leaves just one thing it can be.”
”Which is?” I asked.
“A ghost!” she clapped her hands. “Oh this is wonderful! When it comes back we’ll need to ask
it some questions…who it is, what it wants…oh this is so exciting. I know there are a lot of ghosts in Boston,
but I never expected to see one in my own house.”
“You haven’t seen one…,” I tried to calm her and
took her aside, “You’re smart enough not to get caught up in his
delusion,” I whispered, “It could be simple food poisoning that’s affected him…”
“Food poisoning? Really, Harry.”
“Well, there are hallucinogenic mushrooms out there, maybe some got mixed up with the wild mushroom salad.”
“He didn’t have a salad.”
“He’s back,” Lee hissed and ducked under the covers just as the strong smell of booze permeated the
room, “Go awayyy,” he waved to the chair, “ You’re giving me a headache.”
“Don’t be such a baby,” Edith said looking at the empty rocker. “Oh spirit of the night, who
“I can’t believe this,” I groaned. “Well, Lee? Did it say anything?”
“It said you’re out of Brandy and whiskey will have to do. ”
“Oh good grief,” I said and turned to the empty chair. “Lee, I want you to tell this…this…apparition
to leave you alone and to get the hell out of my house.”
“Can’t,” Lee said sadly.
“Why, why can’t you tell it.” I asked.
“He heard you the first time. Says it’s his sacred duty to stay.”
“Sacred duty? Why?”
“To protect me.”
“Protect you? From what”
For a moment Lee looked like a wounded puppy, “Says…he needs to protect me…from you, Skipper.”
“Me?” I’d had enough.
“Edith, call Dr. Wayne, then a cab. I’m taking him to the hospital. We’re going to settle this scientifically.
And it had better not be some kind of practical joke whipped up by you two!”
Four hours later, I slammed the door shut as we returned home, Edith and Lee trailing as I opened the liquor cabinet
left by the base of the stairs, and found everything intact. Not so much as a drop out of place, nor consumed.
“Ghosts, smosht. I don’t
care that Lee’s X-ray came out negative, and his blood alcohol was minimal. There are no such things as ghosts. I think
you were both influenced by the stories on the paper placemats…”
“Dr. Wayne said the Oyster House has had several paranormal sightings,” Edith insisted, “why wouldn’t
one of its ghosts follow Lee home if it wanted to?”
“To protect him? From me?”
“Well,” she said, “you can be pretty ornery at times.”
“Skipper. I don’t know what the ghost meant either. But it can’t be anything you’d do willingly,
I’m sure of it. As for who, well, didn’t we learn that Daniel Webster almost always had 6 plates of raw oysters
and Brandy? Maybe it was him…”
“Daniel Webster was a great statesman. Even if ghosts exist, why would he bother with you?”
For a moment Lee said nothing. Then I realized what it had sounded like.
“I….I’m sorry Lee. I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yes you did, Captain,” Lee sighed, “I know I’m only an Ensign and your subordinate, but I’m
not a nobody and I actually thought you liked me for myself; I know I liked you. I guess I was mistaken,” he sadly headed for the stairs.
“No, Harry, let him go,” Edith said, “You’ll only hurt him more with false apologies.”
“False? Now see here….”
“It smells bad again…”
“Daniel?” I yelled to thin air, “Daniel Webster, you show yourself. Show yourself right now! Lee,
get back down here!”
“That an order, Captain?” Lee asked from the landing.
“If I have to make it one!”
If Boodles and the awakening household thought it odd that we’d been camped on the floor in a circle holding hands
summoning the spirits, they knew better than to question it and left us alone. It was nearly sunrise and so far the ghost
had not appeared, not even to Lee, though the smell of raw oysters and Brandy
had pretty much been replaced by that of bacon and eggs.
“He’s not going to show himself, even to me, now, ” Lee yawned.
“Shhh. You’ll break the concentration.”
“He’s right, Harry. Ghosts almost never appear in daylight.”
“That so?” a voice taunted, materializing into that of a man in the garb of the middle 1800’s.
“All right, buster, I want facts. Now, “ I demanded. “Name.”
“You know my name.”
“Tell me anyway.”
“Daniel Webster, no relation to the girls’ horny schoolmate, thankfully.”
“How did you know about that?” Edith asked.
“I have my ways.”
“That’s beside the point right now,” I said, “What do you want, and why are you picking on my
“Picking on him? I merely showed myself to him as a courtesy. After all, somebody had to keep watch over him as long as he stayed hereabouts.”
“Why? Why do you need to keep watch over him? Why do you need to protect him from…me…that’s what he said you said.”
“Because one day his life will be in danger from you, his closest friend,
but I did miscalculate the dates, so I did. Won’t come for some time in the future…”
“How could he ever be Harry’s closest friend. He’s just on the same boat with him,” Edith said.
“Like father and son, they’ll be, one day…”
“ How? I mean how will I hurt him?” I interrupted, “ If I’m prepared now, we can stop it from
happening in the future.”
“No. It’s written. Can’t change it even if you tried.
I’ll be off now. Next time, make sure you keep the place stocked up with Brandy. ”
And with that he vanished, along with the smell.
“Next time?” Lee mouthed.
I could only shrug my arms.
I suppose ours was not the only house in Boston to have been visited by a ghost. And
I was concerned that if one had appointed itself to Lee, perhaps there were others with less than honorable ambitions.
Edith, I suppose due to Lee’s apparition, had ended her feud, and suggested Lee take her to visit Old Ironsides
without me, (perhaps she saw an easy way to get some info for a class or something.) I was an old man, she said, and needed
a nap since I hadn’t had any last night.
I was about to tell Edith that I was quite able to survive without a nap, thank you very much, when I saw that Lee wasn’t
all that disagreeable to the idea. Oh well, as long as he was back in time for
our appointment at the museum it was okay with me. I was still uncomfortable with what had happed regarding my earlier faux
pau about his not being important, and this was a way to avoid bringing it up. I think he felt the same way.
It also gave me the time to shop for a more mature birthday present than the one I’d already purchased, and raid
the kitchen for a swipe of the frosting Mrs. Cook had probably already made for her birthday cake.
As the cab finally pulled up, I couldn’t help noticing that Edith was laughing. So was Lee, so the feud must be
on hold, or even over. He’d helped grab the many packages she’d apparently purchased from someplace else than
the ship, and deposited them in the entry.
“Thanks again Lee,” she was saying, “I had a wonderful time.”
“Me too,” he flashed her what I thought was ‘that’ smile.
The sooner I got him back in the cab and on the way to the museum, the sooner I could speak with him about how impressionable
15 year olds were. Or perhaps he already knew…
So there I was with so many ‘what it’s, running through my mind when he approached and asked if I was ready
“Of course, Lee, of course. I hope Edith wasn’t too much of
“Actually, Skipper. I enjoyed her company, the boat and the shopping. Did you know Old Ironsides has ghosts? Can’t
say I was anxious to meet any of them, thankfully didn’t. Something odd though. There I was in civies, and this Chief
comes up and salutes me… probably his job, but it made me think, well, maybe I will be a sub commander one day after
all. Even with a record.”
It was hard to resolve e the image of the little boy Lee looked like just then to a 3 or 4 striper.
“I’m sure you will be, Lee. A fine commander, and that assault charge has been dismissed by the Navy too..”
“I hope you didn’t do me any favor sir…I’d hate that…”
“No. But even the Fleet Commander saw the extenuating circumstances. Has a sister too.”
“Speaking of sisters,” Lee said, “ since I’ll be on my way to the Cape tomorrow , so I was hoping
you could give this to Edith for her big day. ”
“Why thank you,” I said of the small gift wrapped package and nodded to Boodles to take care of it, “
Well, now, let’s go, those weird fish at the Museum are calling me.”
It was a drizzling Monday afternoon when I’d seen Lee off and a stormy day when Edith returned from school. She
was in a good mood, and had decided to ask a few friends home after all. Cake and ice cream were still on the approval list
for teenagers I supposed and welcomed the sound of fun and laughter before we’d soon be doing ‘candy duty’
for the trick or treaters already starting to come to the door. My present could
wait, though Lee’s was being quickly opened.
“Ohhh,”she pulled out the single strand of pearls and earrings.
“That’s nice,” one of her friends said, “but you’ll have to pierce your ears!”
“Who’s it from?” another asked, “your boyfriend?”
“Maybe…one day,” she blushed.
Boyfriend? Boyfriend? A grown man with my little sister? I nearly had a heart attack. But then it dawned
on me. There was a big difference between 15 and 22, but given a few years, well, it wouldn’t be….and like most
teenage crush’s, out of sight, out of mind. And Lee would probably be happily married in a few years. Maybe.
A few days later, I met Lee at the airport. He looked healthy and hearty and was looking at a few visitor’s brochures
to take back to the boat when he suddenly gasped.
“Lee? Lad, what is it?”
All he could do was point. It was a ‘from life’ painting of one of the original members of one of Old Ironside’s
“It’s him…the Chief…the Chief who saluted me…”Lee
“Well, I suppose that future command’s not just a ‘maybe’ Lee. But,” I raised my eyebrow,
“don’t let it go to your head until then.”
“Aye sir,” he smiled.
It was then I noticed the stewardesses who were about to announce our boarding. They were taking their sweet time about it, just gawking at Lee. Drinking him in.
Damn. It wasn’t fair, I thought, my ego bruised. I was an attractive man, if a bit more mature. It just wasn’t fair.
“All’s fair in love and war,” the disembodied and Brandy laced voice said. “Take care of him,
Harriman. Your life will depend on it.”
“Sir? Skipper?” Lee was saying. They’re ready to board.”
“Ah yes. Thank you. My mind was miles away.”
Soon it would all be a memory, I mused as we flew home; I’d received a few revelations about how my sister was
growing up, and how I’d been taking Crane a bit for granted so I promised
myself, never again.
“Aye, that’s the spirit,” Webster appeared, swiped a mini Brandy from the stewardess’s tray
and winked, “that’s the spirit.”
*The Union Oyster House is considered the oldest continuing serving restaurant
in America, and laced with tales of important personages even when it was dry goods store.
Several visitors to the dry goods store and later eatery have included:
The Paymaster General
The printer of the Washington Spy
A future King of France who lived on the second floor for few years.
Etc. Etc. Ect…
Suffice it to say, it’s been a popular place and the story about Daniel Webster almost always having a breakfast there of 6 plates of freshly shucked oysters(that’s
36 )and Brandy are true.