Infomotions, Inc.Keziah Coffin / Lincoln, Joseph Crosby, 1870-1944



Author: Lincoln, Joseph Crosby, 1870-1944
Title: Keziah Coffin
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): keziah; ellery; trumet; nat; elkanah; kyan; hammond; captain zeb; aunt keziah; captain elkanah; keziah coffin; john ellery; eben; coffin; captain; nat hammond; minister; pepper; captain eben; elkanah daniels; captain nat; eben hammond; cap'n elkanah; capt
Contributor(s):
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 102,900 words (short) Grade range: 5-7 (grade school) Readability score: 78 (easy)
Identifier: etext2068
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Keziah Coffin, by Joseph C. Lincoln

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org


Title: Keziah Coffin

Author: Joseph C. Lincoln

Release Date: May 13, 2006 [EBook #2068]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK KEZIAH COFFIN ***




Produced by Donald Lainson





KEZIAH COFFIN

by Joseph C. Lincoln




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I.--    IN WHICH KEZIAH HEARS OF TWO PROPOSALS AND THE BEGINNING OF A THIRD

II.--   IN WHICH KEZIAH UNEARTHS A PROWLER

III.--  IN WHICH KEZIAH ASSUMES A GUARDIANSHIP

IV.--   IN WHICH KEZIAH'S PARSON DECIDES TO RUN IT BLINDFOLD

V.--    IN WHICH THE PARSON CRUISES IN STRANGE WATERS

VI.--   IN WHICH OLD FRIENDS MEET

VII.--  IN WHICH CAPTAIN NAT PICKS UP A DERELICT

VIII.-- IN WHICH THE PARSON AND MR. PEPPER DECLARE THEIR INDEPENDENCE

IX.--   IN WHICH MISS DANIELS DETERMINES TO FIND OUT

X.--    IN WHICH KEZIAH'S TROUBLES MULTIPLY

XI.--   IN WHICH CAPEN EBEN RECEIVES A CALLER

XII.--  IN WHICH CAPTAIN EBEN MAKES PORT

XIII.-- IN WHICH KEZIAH BREAKS THE NEWS

XIV.--  IN WHICH THE SEA MIST SAILS

XV.--   IN WHICH TRUMET TALKS OF CAPTAIN NAT

XVI--   IN WHICH THE MINISTER BOARDS THE SAN JOSE

XVII.-- IN WHICH EBENEZER CAPEN IS SURPRISED

XVIII.--IN WHICH KEZIAH DECIDES TO FIGHT

XIX.--  IN WHICH A RECEPTION IS CALLED OFF

XX.--   IN WHICH THE MINISTER RECEIVES A LETTER

XXI.--  IN WHICH MR. STONE WASHES HIS HANDS

XXII.-- IN WHICH KEZIAH'S PARSON PREACHES ONCE MORE




KEZIAH COFFIN

by Joseph C. Lincoln




CHAPTER I

IN WHICH KEZIAH HEARS TWO PROPOSALS AND THE BEGINNING OF A THIRD


Trumet in a fog; a fog blown in during the night by the wind from the
wide Atlantic. So wet and heavy that one might taste the salt in it.
So thick that houses along the main road were but dim shapes behind
its gray drapery, and only the gates and fences of the front yards
were plainly in evidence to the passers-by. The beach plum and bayberry
bushes on the dunes were spangled with beady drops. The pole on Cannon
Hill, where the beacon was hoisted when the packet from Boston dropped
anchor in the bay, was shiny and slippery. The new weathervane, a
gilded whale, presented to the "Regular" church by Captain Zebedee Mayo,
retired whaler, swam in a sea of cloud. The lichened eaves of the little
"Come-Outer" chapel dripped at sedate intervals. The brick walk leading
to the door of Captain Elkanah Daniels's fine residence held undignified
puddles in its hollows. And, through the damp stillness, the muttered
growl of the surf, three miles away at the foot of the sandy bluffs by
the lighthouse, sounded ominously.

Directly opposite Captain Elkanah's front gate, on the other side of the
main road, stood the little story-and-a-half house, also the captain's
property, which for fourteen years had been tenanted by Mrs. Keziah
Coffin and her brother, Solomon Hall, the shoemaker. But Solomon had,
the month before, given up his fight with debt and illness and was
sleeping quietly in Trumet's most populous center, the graveyard. And
Keziah, left alone, had decided that the rent and living expenses were
more than her precarious earnings as a seamstress would warrant, and,
having bargained with the furniture dealer in Wellmouth for the sale of
her household effects, was now busy getting them ready for the morrow,
when the dealer's wagon was to call. She was going to Boston, where a
distant and condescending rich relative had interested himself to the
extent of finding her a place as sewing woman in a large tailoring
establishment.

The fog hung like a wet blanket over the house and its small yard, where
a few venerable pear trees, too conservative in their old age to venture
a bud even though it was almost May, stood bare and forlorn. The day was
dismal. The dismantled dining room, its tables and chairs pushed into a
corner, and its faded ingrain carpet partially stripped from the floor,
was dismal, likewise. Considering all things, one might have expected
Keziah herself to be even more dismal. But, to all outward appearances,
she was not. A large portion of her thirty-nine years of life had been
passed under a wet blanket, so to speak, and she had not permitted
the depressing covering to shut out more sunshine than was absolutely
necessary. "If you can't get cream, you might as well learn to love your
sasser of skim milk," said practical Keziah.

She was on her knees, her calico dress sleeves, patched and darned, but
absolutely clean, rolled back, uncovering a pair of plump, strong arms,
a saucer of tacks before her, and a tack hammer with a claw head in
her hand. She was taking up the carpet. Grace Van Horne, Captain Eben
Hammond's ward, who had called to see if there was anything she might do
to help, was removing towels, tablecloths, and the like from the drawers
in a tall "high-boy," folding them and placing them in an old and
battered trunk. The pair had been discussing the subject which all
Trumet had discussed for three weeks, namely, the "calling" to the
pastorate of the "Regular" church of the Rev. John Ellery, the young
divinity student, who was to take the place of old Parson Langley,
minister in the parish for over thirty years. Discussion in the village
had now reached a critical point, for the Reverend John was expected
by almost any coach. In those days, the days of the late fifties, the
railroad down the Cape extended only as far as Sandwich; passengers made
the rest of their journey by stage. Many came direct from the city by
the packet, the little schooner, but Mr. Ellery had written that he
should probably come on the coach.

"They say he's very nice-looking," remarked Miss Van Horne soberly,
but with a MISCHIEVOUS glance under her dark lashes at Keziah. The lady
addressed paused long enough to transfer several tacks from the floor to
the saucer, and then made answer.

"Humph!" she observed. "A good many years ago I saw a theater show up
to Boston. Don't be shocked; those circumstances we hear so much tell
of--the kind you can't control--have kept me from goin' to theaters
much, even if I wanted to. But I did see this entertainment, and a fool
one 'twas, too, all singin' instead of talkin'--op'ra, I believe they
called it. Well, as I started to say, one of the leadin' folks in it was
the Old Harry himself, and HE was pretty good-lookin'."

Grace laughed, even though she had been somewhat shocked.

"Why, Aunt Keziah!" she exclaimed--those who knew Keziah Coffin
best usually called her aunt, though real nephews and nieces she had
none--"why, Aunt Keziah! What do you mean by comparing the--the person
you just mentioned with a MINISTER!"

"Oh, I wasn't comparin' 'em; I'll leave that for you Come-Outers to do.
Drat this carpet! Seems's if I never saw such long tacks; I do believe
whoever put 'em down drove 'em clean through the center of the earth and
let the Chinymen clinch 'em on t'other side. I haul up a chunk of the
cellar floor with every one. Ah, hum!" with a sigh, "I cal'late
they ain't any more anxious to leave home than I am. But, far's the
minister's concerned, didn't I hear of your Uncle Eben sayin' in prayer
meetin' only a fortni't or so ago that all hands who wa'n't Come-Outers
were own children to Satan? Mr. Ellery must take after his father some.
Surprisin', ain't it, what a family the old critter's got."

The girl laughed again. For one brought up, since her seventh year,
in the strictest of Come-Outer families, she laughed a good deal. Many
Come-Outers considered it wicked to laugh. Yet Grace did it, and hers
was a laugh pleasant to hear and distinctly pleasant to see. It made her
prettier than ever, a fact which, if she was aware of it, should have
been an additional preventive, for to be pretty smacks of vanity.
Perhaps she wasn't aware of it.

"What do you think Uncle Eben would say if he heard that?" she asked.

"Say I took after my father, too, I presume likely. Does your uncle know
you come here to see me so often? And call me 'aunt' and all that?"

"Of course he does. Aunt Keziah, you mustn't think Uncle Eben doesn't
see the good in people simply because they don't believe as he does.
He's as sweet and kind as--"

"Who? Eben Hammond? Land sakes, child, don't I know it? Cap'n Eben's the
salt of the earth. I'm a Regular and always have been, but I'd be glad
if my own society was seasoned with a few like him. 'Twould taste better
to me of a Sunday." She paused, and then added quizzically: "What d'you
s'pose Cap'n Elkanah and the rest of our parish committee would say if
they heard THAT?"

"Goodness knows! Still, I'm glad to hear you say it. And uncle says you
are as good a woman as ever lived. He thinks you're misled, of course,
but that some day you'll see the error of your ways."

"Humph! I'll have to hurry up if I want to see 'em without spectacles.
See my errors! Land sakes! much as I can do to see the heads of these
tacks. Takin' up carpets is as hard a test of a body's eyesight as 'tis
of their religion."

Her companion put down the tablecloth she was folding and looked
earnestly at the other woman. To an undiscerning eye the latter would
have looked much as she always did--plump and matronly, with brown hair
drawn back from the forehead and parted in the middle; keen brown eyes
with a humorous twinkle in them--this was the Keziah Coffin the later
generation of Trumet knew so well.

But Grace Van Horne, who called her aunt and came to see her so
frequently, while her brother was alive and during the month following
his death, could see the changes which the month had wrought. She saw
the little wrinkles about the eyes and the lines of care about the
mouth, the tired look of the whole plucky, workaday New England figure.
She shook her head.

"Religion!" she repeated. "I do believe, Aunt Keziah, that you've got
the very best religion of anybody I know. I don't care if you don't
belong to our church. When I see how patient you've been and how
cheerful through all your troubles, it--"

Mrs. Coffin waved the hammer deprecatingly. "There! there!" she
interrupted. "I guess it's a good thing I'm goin' away. Here's you and I
praisin' up each other's beliefs, just as if that wasn't a crime here
in Trumet. Sometimes when I see how the two societies in this little
one-horse place row with each other, I declare if it doesn't look as if
they'd crossed out the first word of 'Love your neighbor' and wrote in
'Fight,' instead. Yet I'm a pretty good Regular, too, and when it comes
to whoopin' and carryin' on like the Come-Outers, I--Well! well!
never mind; don't begin to bristle up. I won't say another word about
religion. Let's pick the new minister to pieces. ANY kind of a Christian
can do that."

But the new minister was destined to remain undissected that morning,
in that house at least. Grace was serious now and she voiced the matter
which had been uppermost in her mind since she left home.

"Aunt Keziah," she said, "why do you go away? What makes you? Is it
absolutely necessary?"

"Why do I go? Why, for the same reason that the feller that was hove
overboard left the ship--cause I can't stay. You've got to have vittles
and clothes, even in Trumet, and a place to put your head in nights.
Long's Sol was alive and could do his cobblin' we managed to get along
somehow. What I could earn sewin' helped, and we lived simple. But when
he was taken down and died, the doctor's bills and the undertaker's used
up what little money I had put by, and the sewin' alone wouldn't keep
a healthy canary in bird seed. Dear land knows I hate to leave the old
house I've lived in for fourteen years and the town I was born in, but
I've got to, for all I see. Thank mercy, I can pay Cap'n Elkanah his
last month's rent and go with a clear conscience. I won't owe anybody,
that's a comfort, and nobody will owe me; though I could stand that, I
guess," she added, prying at the carpet edge.

"I don't care!" The girl's dark eyes flashed indignantly. "I think it's
too bad of Cap'n Elkanah to turn you out when--"

"Don't talk that way. He ain't turnin' me out. He ain't lettin' houses
for his health and he'll need the money to buy his daughter's summer
rigs. She ain't had a new dress for a month, pretty near, and here's
a young and good-lookin' parson heavin' in sight. Maybe Cap'n Elkanah
would think a minister was high-toned enough even for Annabel to marry."

"He's only twenty-three, they say," remarked Grace, a trifle
maliciously. "Perhaps she'll adopt him."

Annabel was the only child of Captain Elkanah Daniels, who owned the
finest house in town. She was the belle of Trumet, and had been for a
good many years.

Keziah laughed.

"Well," she said, "anyhow I've got to go. Maybe I'll like Boston first
rate, you can't tell. Or maybe I won't. Ah, hum! 'twouldn't be the first
thing I've had to do that I didn't like."

Her friend looked at her.

"Aunt," she said, "I want to make a proposal to you, and you mustn't be
cross about it."

"A proposal! Sakes alive! What'll I say? 'This is so sudden!' That's
what Becky Ryder, up to the west part of the town, said when Jim Baker,
the tin peddler, happened to ask her if she'd ever thought of gettin'
married. 'O James! this is so sudden!' says Becky. Jim said afterwards
that the suddenest thing about it was the way he cleared out of that
house. And he never called there afterwards."

Grace smiled, but quickly grew grave.

"Now, auntie," she said, "please listen. I'm in earnest. It seems to me
that you might do quite well at dressmaking here in town, if you had
a little--well, ready money to help you at the start. I've got a few
hundred dollars in the bank, presents from uncle, and my father's
insurance money. I should love to lend it to you, and I know uncle
would--"

Mrs. Coffin interrupted her.

"Cat's foot!" she exclaimed. "I hope I haven't got where I need to
borrow money yet a while. Thank you just as much, deary, but long's I've
got two hands and a mouth, I'll make the two keep t'other reasonably
full, I wouldn't wonder. No, I shan't think of it, so don't say another
word. NO."

The negative was so decided that Grace was silenced. Her disappointment
showed in her face, however, and Keziah hastened to change the subject.

"How do you know," she observed, "but what my goin' to Boston may be the
best thing that ever happened to me? You can't tell. No use despairin',
Annabel ain't given up hope yet; why should I? Hey? Ain't that somebody
comin'?"

Her companion sprang to her feet and ran to the window. Then she broke
into a smothered laugh.

"Why, it's Kyan Pepper!" she exclaimed. "He must be coming to see you,
Aunt Keziah. And he's got on his very best Sunday clothes. Gracious! I
must be going. I didn't know you expected callers."

Keziah dropped the tack hammer and stood up.

"Kyan!" she repeated. "What in the world is that old idiot comin' here
for? To talk about the minister, I s'pose. How on earth did Laviny ever
come to let him out alone?"

Mr. Pepper, Mr. Abishai Pepper, locally called "Kyan" (Cayenne) Pepper
because of his red hair and thin red side whiskers, was one of Trumet's
"characters," and in his case the character was weak. He was born in the
village and, when a youngster, had, like every other boy of good family
in the community, cherished ambitions for a seafaring life. His sister,
Lavinia, ten years older than he, who, after the death of their parents,
had undertaken the job of "bringing up" her brother, did not sympathize
with these ambitions. Consequently, when Kyan ran away she followed him
to Boston, stalked aboard the vessel where he had shipped, and collared
him, literally and figuratively. One of the mates venturing to offer
objection, Lavinia turned upon him and gave him a piece of her mind, to
the immense delight of the crew and the loungers on the wharf. Then she
returned with the vagrant to Trumet. Old Captain Higgins, who skippered
the packet in those days, swore that Lavinia never stopped lecturing her
brother from the time they left Boston until they dropped anchor behind
the breakwater.

"I give you my word that 'twas pretty nigh a stark calm, but there was
such a steady stream of language pourin' out of the Pepper stateroom
that the draught kept the sails filled all the way home," asserted
Captain Higgins.

That was Kyan's sole venture, so far as sailoring was concerned, but he
ran away again when he was twenty-five. This time he returned of his
own accord, bringing a wife with him, one Evelyn Gott of Ostable. Evelyn
could talk a bit herself, and her first interview with Lavinia ended
with the latter's leaving the house in a rage, swearing never to set
foot in it again. This oath she broke the day of her sister-in-law's
funeral. Then she appeared, after the ceremony, her baggage on the wagon
with her. The bereaved one, who was sitting on the front stoop of his
dwelling with, so people say, a most resigned expression on his meek
countenance, looked up and saw her.

"My land! Laviny," he exclaimed, turning pale. "Where'd you come from?"

"Never mind WHERE I come from," observed his sister promptly. "You just
be thankful I've come. If ever a body needed some one to take care of
'em, it's you. You can tote my things right in," she added, turning to
her grinning driver, "and you, 'Bishy, go right in with 'em. The idea
of your settin' outside takin' it easy when your poor wife ain't been
buried more'n an hour!"

"But--but--Laviny," protested poor Kyan, speaking the truth unwittingly,
"I couldn't take it easy AFORE she was buried, could I?"

"Go right in," was the answer. "March!"

Abishai marched, and had marched under his sister's orders ever since.
She kept house for him, and did it well, but her one fear was that some
female might again capture him, and she watched him with an eagle
eye. He was the town assessor and tax collector, but when he visited
dwellings containing single women or widows, Lavinia always accompanied
him, "to help him in his figgerin'," she said.

Consequently, when he appeared, unchaperoned, on the walk leading to the
side door of the Coffin homestead, Keziah and her friend were surprised.

"He's dressed to kill," whispered Grace, at the window. "Even his tall
hat; and in this fog! I do believe he's coming courting, Aunt Keziah."

"Humph!" was the ungracious answer. "He's come to say good-by, I s'pose,
and to find out where I'm goin' and how much pay I'm goin' to get and if
my rent's settled, and a few other little things that ain't any of
his business. Laviny put him up to it, you see. She'll be along pretty
quick. Well, I'll fix him so he won't talk much. He can help us take
down that stovepipe. I said 'twas a job for a man, and a half one's
better than none--Why, how d'ye do, 'Bishy? Come right in. Pretty thick
outside, isn't it?"

Mr. Pepper entered diffidently.

"Er--er--how d'ye do, Keziah?" he stammered. "I thought I'd just run in
a minute and--"

"Yes, yes. Glad to see you. Take off your hat. My sakes! it's pretty
wet. How did Laviny come to let you--I mean how'd you come to wear a
beaver such a mornin's this?"

Kyan removed the silk hat and inspected its limp grandeur ruefully.

"I--I--" he began. "Well, the fact is, I come out by myself. You see,
Laviny's gone up to Sarah B.'s to talk church doin's. I--I--well, I kind
of wanted to speak with you about somethin', Keziah, so--Oh! I didn't
see you, Gracie. Good mornin'."

He didn't seem overjoyed to see Miss Van Horne, as it was. In fact,
he reddened perceptibly and backed toward the door. The girl, her eyes
twinkling, took up her jacket and hat.

"Oh! I'm not going to stop, Mr. Pepper," she said. "I was only helping
Aunt Keziah a little, that's all. I must run on now."

"Run on--nonsense!" declared Keziah decisively. "You're goin' to stay
right here and help us get that stovepipe down. And 'Bishy'll help, too.
Won't you, 'Bish?"

The stovepipe was attached to the "air-tight" in the dining room.
It--the pipe--rose perpendicularly for a few feet and then extended
horizontally, over the high-boy, until it entered the wall. Kyan looked
at it and then at his "Sunday clothes."

"Why, I'd be glad to, of course," he declared with dubious enthusiasm.
"But I don't know's I'll have time. Perhaps I'd better come later and do
it. Laviny, she--"

"Oh, Laviny can spare you for a few minutes, I guess; 'specially as she
don't know you're out. Better take your coat off, hadn't you? Grace,
fetch one of those chairs for Ky--for 'Bishy to stand in."

Grace obediently brought the chair. It happened to be the one with a
rickety leg, but its owner was helping the reluctant Abishai remove the
long-tailed blue coat which had been his wedding garment and had adorned
his person on occasions of ceremony ever since. She did not notice the
chair.

"It's real good of you to offer to help," she said. "Grace and I didn't
hardly dast to try it alone. That pipe's been up so long that I wouldn't
wonder if 'twas chock-full of soot. If you're careful, though, I don't
believe you'll get any on you. Never mind the floor; I'm goin' to wash
that before I leave."

Reluctantly, slowly, the unwilling Mr. Pepper suffered himself to be led
to the chair. He mounted it and gingerly took hold of the pipe.

"Better loosen it at the stove hole first," advised Keziah. "What was it
you wanted to see me about, 'Bish?"

"Oh, nothin', nothin'," was the hasty response. "Nothin' of any
account--that is to say--"

He turned redder than ever and wrenched at the pipe. It loosened at its
lower end and the wires holding it in suspension shook.

"I guess," observed the lady of the house, "that you'd better move that
chest of drawers out so's you can get behind it. Grace, you help me.
There! that's better. Now move your chair."

Kyan stepped from the chair and moved the latter to a position between
the high-boy and the wall. Then he remounted and gripped the pipe in the
middle of its horizontal section.

"Seems to stick in the chimney there, don't it?" queried Keziah. "Wiggle
it back and forth; that ought to loosen it. What was it you wanted to
say, 'Bish?"

Apparently, Mr. Pepper had nothing to say. The crimson tide had reached
his ears, which, always noticeable because of their size and spread,
were now lit up like a schooner's sails at sunset. His hands trembled on
the pipe.

"Nothin', nothin', I tell you," he faltered. "I--I just run in to say
how d'ye do, that's all."

"Really, I think I'd better be going," said Grace, glancing from Kyan's
embarrassed face to that of the unsuspecting Mrs. Coffin. "I'm afraid
I'm in the way."

"No, no!" shouted the occupant of the chair. "No, no, you ain't!"

"But I'm afraid I am. And they'll be expecting me at home. Aunt Keziah,
I--"

"Don't be in such a hurry," interrupted Keziah. "Does stick in the
chimney, don't it? Tell you what you can do, Grace; you can go in the
woodshed and fetch the hammer that's in the table drawer. Hurry up,
that's a good girl."

Kyan protested that he did not need the hammer, but his protest was
unheeded. With one more glance at the couple, Grace departed from the
kitchen, biting her lips. She shut the door carefully behind her. Mr.
Pepper labored frantically with the pipe.

"No use to shake it any more till you get the hammer," advised Keziah.
"Might's well talk while you're waitin'. What was it you wanted to tell
me?"

Abishai drew one hand across his forehead, leaving a decorative smooch
of blacking on his perspiring countenance. He choked, swallowed, and
then, with a look at the closed door, seemed to reach a desperate
resolve.

"Keziah," he whispered hurriedly, "you've known me quite a spell, ain't
you?"

"Known you? Known you ever since you were born, pretty nigh. What of
it?"

"Yes, yes. And I've known you, you know. Fact is, we've known each
other."

"Hear the man! Land sakes! don't everybody in Trumet know everybody
else? What ARE you drivin' at?"

"Keziah, you're a single woman."

His companion let go of the chair, which she had been holding in place,
and stepped back.

"I'm a single woman?" she repeated sharply. "What do you mean by that?
Did--did anybody say I wasn't?"

"No, no! 'Course not. But you're a widow, so you BE single, you know,
and--"

"Well? Did you think I was twins? Get down off there this minute. You've
gone crazy. I thought so when I saw that beaver. Either that or you've
been drinkin'. Grace! What DOES make her so long gettin' that hammer?"

Finding the hammer did seem to take a long time. There was no sound from
the kitchen. Kyan, steadying himself with one hand on the pipe, waved
the other wildly.

"S-s-sh! s-sh-h!" he hissed. "Hush! be still! Don't get her in here.
Keziah, you're single and so am I. You ain't got nobody to take care of
you and I ain't, neither--that is, I don't want to be took care of--I
mean, I've been took care of too much."

Mrs. Coffin took another step in the direction of the kitchen.

"He IS loony!" she exclaimed under her breath. "I--"

"No, no! I ain't loony. I want to make a proposal to you. I want to see
if you won't marry me. I'm sick of Laviny. Let's you and me settle down
together. I could have some peace then. And I think a whole lot of you,
too," he added, apparently as an afterthought.

Keziah's face was red now, and growing redder every instant.

"Kyan Pepper!" she cried in amazed incredulity. "Kyan Pepper, do you--"

"Hurry up!" pleaded Abishai, in agitated impatience. "Say yes quick.
She'll be back in a minute."

"Say YES! Why, you--"

"Don't stop to argue, Keziah. I've got 'most fifteen hundred dollars in
the bank. Laviny keeps the pass book in her bureau, but you could get it
from her. I own my house. I'm a man of good character. You're poor,
but I don't let that stand in the way. Anyhow, you're a first-rate
housekeeper. And I really do think an awful lot of you."

Mrs. Coffin stepped no farther in the direction of the kitchen. Instead,
she strode toward the rickety chair and its occupant. Kyan grasped the
pipe with both hands.

"You poor--miserable--impudent--" began the lady.

"Why, Keziah, don't you WANT to?" He spoke as if the possibility of
a refusal had never entered his mind. "I cal'lated you'd be glad.
You wouldn't have to go away then, nor--My soul and body! some one's
knockin' at the door! AND THIS DUMMED PIPE'S FETCHED LOOSE!"

The last sentence was a smothered shriek. Keziah heeded not. Neither
did she heed the knock at the door. Her hands were opening and closing
convulsively.

"Be glad!" she repeated. "Glad to marry a good-for-nothin' sand-peep
like you! You sassy--GET down off that chair and out of this house! Get
down this minute!"

"I can't! This stovepipe's loose, I tell you! Be reason'ble, Keziah.
Do--don't you touch me! I'll fall if you do. Pl-e-ase, Keziah!--O Lordy!
I knew it. LAVINY!"

The door opened. On the threshold, arms akimbo and lips set tight, stood
Lavinia Pepper. Her brother's knees gave way; in their collapse they
struck the chair back; the rickety leg wabbled. Kyan grasped at the pipe
to save himself and, the next moment, chair, sections of stovepipe, and
Mr. Pepper disappeared with a mighty crash behind the high-boy. A cloud
of soot arose and obscured the view.

Keziah, too indignant even to laugh, glared at the wreck. In the doorway
of the kitchen Grace Van Horne, hammer in hand, leaned against the jamb,
her handkerchief at her mouth and tears in her eyes. Lavinia, majestic
and rigid, dominated the scene. From behind the high-boy came coughs,
sneezes, and emphatic ejaculations.

Miss Pepper was the first to speak.

"Abishai Pepper," she commanded, "come out of that this minute."

Her answer was a tremendous sneeze. Then from the dusky cloud by the
wall sounded a voice feebly protesting.

"Now, Laviny," began poor Kyan, "I never in my life--"

"Do you hear me? Come out of that!"

There was a sound of scrambling. More soot floated in the air. Then
around the corner of the high-boy appeared Mr. Pepper, crawling on his
hands and knees. His hair was streaked with black; his shirt front and
collar and shirt sleeves were spotted and smeared with black; and from
his blackened cheeks his red whiskers flamed like the last glowing
embers in a fire-scarred ruin.

"Laviny," he panted, "I never was so surprised and upsot in all my life
afore."

This was too much for Grace. She collapsed in a chair and laughed
hysterically. Even the wrathful Keziah smiled. But Lavinia did not
smile. For that matter, neither did her brother.

"Hum!" sneered Miss Pepper. "Upsot! Yes, I see you're upsot. Get up, and
try to look as much like a Christian as you can!"

Kyan rose from his knees to his feet and rubbed his back. He glanced
reproachfully at Grace, then fearfully at his sister.

"I was just tryin' to help Keziah take down her stovepipe," he
explained. "You see, she didn't have no man to--"

"Yes, I see. Well, I judge you got it down. Now you go out to the sink
and wash your face. Heavens and earth! Look at them clothes!"

"I do hope you didn't hurt yourself, Abishai," said the sympathetic
Keziah. Then, as remembrance of what had led to the upset came to her,
she added: "Though I will say 'twas your own fault and nobody else's."

Lavinia whirled on her.

"His own fault, was it?" she repeated, her voice shrill and trembling.
"Thank you very much, marm. I cal'late 'twas his own fault comin'
here, too, wa'n't it? Nobody led him on, I s'pose. Nobody put him up to
riggin' out in his best bib and tucker and sneakin' here the minute I
was out of the house. No, nobody did! Of COURSE not!"

"No, nobody did," said Keziah briskly. "And you may know what you're
hintin' at, but I don't."

"Dear me! Ain't we innocent! We've got plenty of money, WE have.
Widowers with property ain't no attraction to US. Everybody knows
that--oh, yes! And they never talk of such a thing--oh, no! Folks don't
say that--that--Well," with a snarl in the direction of the kitchen,
"are you anywheres nigh clean yet? Get your coat and hat on and come
home with me."

She jerked her brother into the blue coat, jammed the tall hat down upon
his head, and, seizing him by the arm, stalked to the door.

"Good day, marm," she said. "I do hope the next widower you get to take
down your stovepipe--yes, indeed! ha! ha!--I hope you'll have better
luck with him. Though I don't know who 'twould be; there ain't no more
idiots in town that I know of. Good day, and thank you kindly for your
attentions to our family."

She pulled the door open and was on the step; but Mrs. Coffin did not
intend to let her go in just that way.

"Laviny Pepper," she declared, her eyes snapping, "I don't know what
you're talkin' about, but if you dare to mean that I want any of your
money, or your brother's money, you're mistaken--'cause I don't. And I
don't want your brother either--Lord help him, poor thing! And I tell
you right now that there's nobody that does; though some kind-hearted
folks have said 'twould be a Christian act to poison him, so's to put
him out of his misery. There! Good mornin' to you."

She slammed the door. Lavinia was speechless. As for her brother, but
one remark of his reached Grace, who was watching from the window.

"Laviny," pleaded Kyan, "just let me explain."

At nine o'clock that night he was still "explaining."

Keziah turned from the door she had closed behind her visitor.

"Well!" she ejaculated. "WELL!"

Her friend did not look at her. She was still gazing out of the window.
Occasionally she seemed to choke.

Keziah eyed her suspiciously.

"Humph!" she mused. "'Twas funny, wasn't it?"

"Oh, dreadfully!" was the hurried answer.

"Yes. Seems to me you took an awful long time findin' that hammer."

"It was away back in the drawer. I didn't see it at first."

"Hum! Grace Van Horne, if I thought you heard what that--that THING said
to me, I'd--I'd--Good land of mercy! somebody ELSE is comin'."

Steps, measured, dignified steps, sounded on the walk. From without came
a "Hum--ha!" a portentous combination of cough and grunt. Grace dodged
back from the window and hastily began donning her hat and jacket.

"It's Cap'n Elkanah," she whispered. "I must go. This seems to be your
busy morning, Aunt Keziah. I"--here she choked again--"really, I didn't
know you were so popular."

Keziah opened the door. Captain Elkanah Daniels, prosperous, pompous,
and unbending, crossed the threshold. Richest man in the village,
retired shipowner, pillar of the Regular church and leading member of
its parish committee, Captain Elkanah looked the part. He removed
his hat, cleared his throat behind his black stock, and spoke with
impressive deliberation.

"Good morning, Keziah. Ah--er--morning, Grace." Even in the tone given
to a perfunctory salutation like this, the captain differentiated
between Regular and Come-Outer. "Keziah, I--hum, ha!--rather expected to
find you alone."

"I was just going, Cap'n Daniels," explained the girl. The captain bowed
and continued.

"Keziah," he said, "Keziah, I came to see you on a somewhat important
matter. I have a proposal I wish to make you."

He must have been surprised at the effect of his words. Keziah's face
was a picture, a crimson picture of paralyzed amazement. As for Miss Van
Horne, that young lady gave vent to what her friend described afterwards
as a "squeal," and bolted out of the door and into the grateful
seclusion of the fog.


CHAPTER II

IN WHICH KEZIAH UNEARTHS A PROWLER


The fog was cruel to the gossips of Trumet that day. Mrs. Didama Rogers,
who lived all alone, except for the society of three cats, a canary,
and a white poodle named "Bunch," in the little house next to Captain
Elkanah's establishment, never entirely recovered from the chagrin
and disappointment caused by that provoking mist. When one habitually
hurries through the morning's household duties in order to sit by the
front window and note each passer-by, with various fascinating surmises
as to his or her errand and the reasons for it, it is discouraging to be
able to see only one's own front fence and a scant ten feet of sidewalk.
And then to learn afterwards of a dozen most exciting events, each
distinctly out of the ordinary, which might have been used as excuses
for two dozen calls and as many sensations! As Captain Zeb Mayo, the
irreverent ex-whaler, put it, "That fog shook Didama's faith in the
judgment of Providence. 'Tain't the 'all wise,' but the 'all seein''
kind she talks about in meetin' now."

The fog prevented Mrs. Rogers's noting the entrance of Mr. Pepper at the
Coffin front gate. Also his exit, under sisterly arrest. It shut from
her view the majestic approach of Captain Elkanah Daniels and Grace's
flight, her face dimpled with smiles and breaking into laughter
at frequent intervals. For a young lady, supposed to be a devout
Come-Outer, to hurry along the main road, a handkerchief at her mouth
and her eyes sparkling with fun, was a circumstance calculated to
furnish material for enjoyable scandal. And Didama missed it.

Other happenings she missed, also. Not knowing of Captain Daniels's call
upon Keziah, she was deprived of the pleasure of wonder at the length of
his stay. She did not see him, in company with Mrs. Coffin, go down
the road in the opposite direction from that taken by Grace. Nor their
return and parting at the gate, two hours later. She did not see--but
there! she saw nothing, absolutely nothing--except the scraggy spruce
tree in her tiny front yard and the lonely ten feet of walk bordering
it. No one traversed that section of walk except old Mrs. Tinker, who
was collecting subscriptions for new hymn books for the Come-Outer
chapel. And Didama was particularly anxious NOT to see her.

The dismal day dragged on. The silver-leaf trees dripped, the hedges
were shining with moisture. Through the stillness the distant surf along
the "ocean side" of the Cape growled and moaned and the fog bell at the
lighthouse clanged miserably. Along the walk opposite Didama's--the
more popular side of the road--shadowy figures passed at long intervals,
children going to and from school, people on errands to the store, and
the like. It was three o'clock in the afternoon before a visitor came
again to the Coffin front gate, entered the yard and rapped at the side
door.

Keziah opened the door.

"Halloa!" she exclaimed. "Back, are you? I begun to think you'd been
scared away for good."

Grace laughed as she entered.

"Well, auntie," she said, "I don't wonder you thought I was scared.
Truly, I didn't think it was proper for me to stay. First Kyan and then
Cap'n Elkanah, and both of them expressing their wishes to see you alone
so--er--pointedly. I thought it was time for me to go. Surely, you give
me credit for a little delicacy."

Keziah eyed her grimly.

"Humph!" she sniffed. "If you'd been a little less delicate about
fetchin' that hammer, we might have been spared at least one smash-up. I
don't s'pose Laviny'll ever speak to me again. Oh, dear! I guess likely
I'll never get the memory of that--that Kyan thing out of my mind. I
never was so set back in my born days. Yes, you can laugh!"

She laughed herself as she said it. As for Grace, it was sometime before
that young lady became coherent.

"He DID look so funny!" she gasped. "Hopping up and down on that shaky
chair and holding on to that pipe and--and--O Aunt Keziah, if you could
have seen your face when I opened that door!"

"Yes; well, I will say you was sometime gettin' it open. And then, on
top of the whole fool business, in parades Elkanah Daniels and--"

She paused. Her companion looked delightedly expectant.

"Yes," she cried eagerly. "Then Cap'n Elkanah came and the very first
thing he said was--I almost laughed in his face."

"Almost! Humph! that's no exaggeration. The way you put out of that door
was a caution."

"Yes, but what did the cap'n mean? Is it a secret? Ahem! shall I
congratulate you, auntie?"

"Grace Van Horne! there's born fools enough in this town without your
tryin' to be one. You know 'twa'n't THAT. Though what 'twas was surprise
enough, I will say," she added. "Grace, I ain't goin' away to-morrow."

"You're not? Oh, splendid! Has the cap'n decided to let you stay here?"

"I guess his decidin' wouldn't influence me, if twas stayin' in his
house he meant. The only way I could live here would be on his charity,
and that would be as poor fodder as sawdust hasty puddin', even if I
was fond of charity, which I ain't. He said to me--Well, you take your
things off and I'll tell you about it. You can stay a little while,
can't you?"

"Yes, I was going to stay all the afternoon and for supper, if you'd let
me. I knew you had so much to do and I wanted to help. I told uncle and
he said certainly I ought to come. He said he should try to see you and
say good-by before you left tomorrow."

"You don't say! And me a Regular! Well, I'm much obliged, though I guess
your Uncle Eben won't see me to-morrow--nor speak to me again, when he
knows what I AM going to do. Grace, I ain't goin' to leave Trumet, not
for the present, anyhow. I've got a way of earnin' my livin' right here.
I'm goin' to keep house for the new minister."

The girl turned, her hat in her hand.

"Oh!" she cried in utter astonishment.

Keziah nodded. "Yes," she affirmed. "That was what Elkanah's proposal
amounted to. Ha! ha! Deary me! When he said 'proposal,' I own up for
a minute I didn't know WHAT was comin'. After Kyan I was prepared
for 'most anything. But he told me that Lurany Phelps, who the parish
committee had counted on to keep house for Mr. Ellery, had sent word her
sister was sick and couldn't be left, and that somebody must be hired
right off 'cause the minister's expected by day after to-morrow's coach.
And they'd gone over every likely candidate in town till it simmered
down to Mehitable Burgess. And Cap'n Zeb Mayo spoke right up in the
committee meetin' and gave out that if Mehitable kept house for Mr.
Ellery he, for one, wouldn't come to church. Said he didn't want to hear
sermons that was inspired by HER cookin'. Seems she cooked for the Mayos
one week when Mrs. Mayo had gone to Boston, and Cap'n Zeb declares his
dreams that week was somethin' awful. 'And I'm a man with no nerves and
mighty little imagination,' he says. 'Land knows what effect a dose of
Mehitable's biscuits might have on a MINISTER.'

"And so," continued Keziah, "they decided Mehitable wouldn't do, and
finally somebody thought of me. I have a notion 'twas Zeb, although
Cap'n Elkanah did his best to make me think 'twas himself. And the cap'n
was made a delegate to come and see me about it. Come he did, and we
settled it. I went down to the parsonage with him before dinner and
looked the place over. There's an awful lot of sweepin' and dustin' to
be done afore it's fit for a body to live in. I did think that when I'd
finished with this house I could swear off on that kind of dissipation
for a while, but I guess, judgin' by the looks of that parsonage, what
I've done so far is only practice." She paused, glanced keenly at her
friend and asked: "Why! what's the matter? You don't act nigh so glad as
I thought you'd be."

Grace said of course she was glad; but she looked troubled,
nevertheless.

"I can hardly make it seem possible," she said. "Is it really
settled--your salary and everything? And what will you do about your
position in Boston?"

"Oh, I'll write Cousin Abner and tell him. Lord love you, HE won't care.
He'll feel that he did his duty in gettin' me the Boston chance and if I
don't take it 'tain't his fault. HIS conscience'll be clear. Land sakes!
if I could clean house as easy as some folks clear their consciences I
wouldn't have a backache this minute. Yes, the wages are agreed on, too.
And totin' them around won't make my back ache any worse, either," she
added drily.

Grace extended her hand.

"Well, Aunt Keziah," she said, "I'm ever and ever so glad for you.
I know you didn't want to leave Trumet and I'm sure everyone will be
delighted when they learn that you're going to stay."

"Humph! that includes Laviny Pepper, of course. I cal'late Laviny's
delight won't keep her up nights. But I guess I can stand it if she can.
Now, Grace, what is it? You AIN'T real pleased? Why not?"

The girl hesitated.

"Auntie," she said, "I'm selfish, I guess. I'm glad for your sake; you
mustn't think I'm not. But I almost wish you were going to do something
else. You are going to live in the Regular parsonage and keep house
for, of all persons, a Regular minister. Why, so far as my seeing you is
concerned, you might as well be in China. You know Uncle Eben."

Keziah nodded understandingly.

"Yes," she said, "I know him. Eben Hammond thinks that parsonage is
the presence chamber of the Evil One, I presume likely. But, Grace, you
mustn't blame me, and if you don't call I'll know why and I shan't blame
you. We'll see each other once in a while; I'll take care of that. And,
deary, I HAD to do it--I just had to. If you knew what a load had been
took off my mind by this, you'd sympathize with me and understand. I've
been happier in Trumet than I ever was anywhere else, though I've seen
some dark times here, too. I was born here; my folks used to live here.
My brother Sol lived and died here. His death was a heavy trouble to
me, but the heaviest came to me when I was somewheres else and--well,
somehow I've had a feelin' that, if there was any real joys ever planned
out for me while I'm on this earth, they'd come to me here. I don't know
when they'll come. There's times when I can't believe they ever will
come, but--There! there! everybody has to bear burdens in this life, I
cal'late. It's a vale of tears, 'cordin' to you Come-Outer folks, though
I've never seen much good in wearin' a long face and a crape bathin'
suit on that account. Hey? What are you listenin' to?"

"I thought I heard a carriage stop, that was all."

Mrs. Coffin went to the window and peered into the fog.

"Can't see anything," she said. "'Tain't anybody for here, that's sure.
I guess likely 'twas Cap'n Elkanah. He and Annabel were goin' to drive
over to Denboro this afternoon. She had some trimmin' to buy. Takes more
than fog to separate Annabel Daniels from dressmakin'. Well, there's a
little more packin' to do; then I thought I'd go down to that parsonage
and take a whack at the cobwebs. I never saw so many in my born days.
You'd think all the spiders from here to Ostable had been holdin' camp
meetin' in that shut-up house."

The packing took about an hour. When it was finished, the carpet rolled
up, and the last piece of linen placed in the old trunk, Keziah turned
to her guest.

"Now, Gracie," she said, "I feel as though I ought to go to the
parsonage. I can't do much more'n look at the cobwebs to-night, but
to-morrow those spiders had better put on their ascension robes. The
end of the world's comin' for them, even though it missed fire for the
Millerites when they had their doin's a few years ago. You can stay
here and wait, if 'twon't be too lonesome. We'll have supper when I get
back."

Grace looked tempted.

"I've a good mind to go with you," she said. "I want to be with you as
much as I can, and HE isn't there yet. I'm afraid uncle might not like
it, but--"

"Sho! Come along. Eben Hammond may be a chronic sufferer from acute
Come-Outiveness, but he ain't a ninny. Nobody'll see you, anyway. This
fog's like charity, it'll cover a heap of sins. Do come right along.
Wait till I get on my things."

She threw a shawl over her shoulders, draped a white knitted "cloud"
over her head, and took from a nail a key, attached by a strong cord to
a block of wood eight inches long.

"Elkanah left the key with me," she observed. "No danger of losin' it,
is there. Might as well lose a lumber yard. Old Parson Langley tied it
up this way, so he wouldn't miss his moorin's, I presume likely. The
poor old thing was so nearsighted and absent-minded along toward the
last that they say he used to hire Noah Myrick's boy to come in and look
him over every Sunday mornin' before church, so's to be sure he hadn't
got his wig on stern foremost. That's the way Zeb Mayo tells the yarn,
anyhow."

They left the house and came out into the wet mist. Then, turning to
the right, in the direction which Trumet, with unconscious irony, calls
"downtown," they climbed the long slope where the main road mounts the
outlying ridge of Cannon Hill, passed Captain Mayo's big house--the
finest in Trumet, with the exception of the Daniels mansion--and
descended into the hollow beyond. Here, at the corner where the
"Lighthouse Lane" begins its winding way over the rolling knolls and
dunes to the light and the fish shanties on the "ocean side," stood
the plain, straight-up-and-down meeting house of the Regular society.
Directly opposite was the little parsonage, also very straight up and
down. Both were painted white with green blinds. This statement is
superfluous to those who remember Cape architecture at this period;
practically every building from Sandwich to Provincetown was white and
green.

They entered the yard, through the gap in the white fence, and went
around the house, past the dripping evergreens and the bare, wet lilac
bushes, to the side door, the lock of which Keziah's key fitted. There
was a lock on the front door, of course, but no one thought of meddling
with that. That door had been opened but once during the late pastor's
thirty-year tenantry. On the occasion of his funeral the mourners came
and went, as was proper, by that solemn portal.

Mrs. Coffin thrust the key into the keyhole of the side door and essayed
to turn it.

"Humph!" she muttered, twisting to no purpose; "I don't see why--This
must be the right key, because--Well, I declare, if it ain't unlocked
already! That's some of Cap'n Elkanah's doin's. For a critter as fussy
and particular about some things, he's careless enough about others.
Mercy we ain't had any tramps around here lately. Come in."

She led the way into the dining room of the parsonage. Two of the blinds
shading the windows of that apartment had been opened when she and
Captain Daniels made their visit, and the dim gray light made the room
more lonesome and forsaken in appearance than a deeper gloom could
possibly have done. The black walnut extension table in the center,
closed to its smallest dimensions because Parson Langley had eaten alone
for so many years; the black walnut chairs set back against the wall at
regular intervals; the rag carpet and braided mats--homemade donations
from the ladies of the parish--on the green painted floor; the dolorous
pictures on the walls; "Death of Washington," "Stoning of Stephen," and
a still more deadly "fruit piece" committed in oils years ago by a now
deceased boat painter; a black walnut sideboard with some blue-and-white
crockery upon it; a gilt-framed mirror with another outrage in oils
emphasizing its upper half; dust over everything and the cobwebs
mentioned by Keziah draping the corners of the ceiling; this was the
dining room of the Regular parsonage as Grace saw it upon this, her
first visit. The dust and cobwebs were, in her eyes, the only novelties,
however. Otherwise, the room was like many others in Trumet, and, if
there had been one or two paintings of ships, would have been typical of
the better class.

"Phew!" exclaimed Keziah, sniffing disgustedly. "Musty and shut up
enough, ain't it? Down here in the dampness, and 'specially in the
spring, it don't take any time for a house to get musty if it ain't
aired out regular. Mr. Langley died only three months ago, but we've
been candidatin' ever since and the candidates have been boarded round.
There's been enough of 'em, too; we're awful hard to suit, I guess.
That's it. Do open some more blinds and a window. Fresh air don't hurt
anybody--unless it's spiders," with a glare at the loathed cobwebs.

The blinds and a window being opened, more light entered the room. Grace
glanced about it curiously.

"So this is going to be your new home now, Aunt Keziah," she observed.
"How queer that seems."

"Um--h'm. Does seem queer, don't it? Must seem queer to you to be so
near the headquarters of everything your uncle thinks is wicked. Smell
of brimstone any, does it?" she asked with a smile.

"No, I haven't noticed it. You've got a lot of cleaning to do. I wish I
could help. Look at the mud on the floor."

Keziah looked.

"Mud?" she exclaimed. "Why, so 'tis! How in the world did that come
here? Wet feet, sure's you're born. Man's foot, too. Cap'n Elkanah's,
I guess likely; though the prints don't look hardly big enough for his.
Elkanah's convinced that he's a great man and his boots bear him out
in it, don't they? Those marks don't look broad enough for his
understandin', but I guess he made 'em; nobody else could. Here's the
settin' room."

She threw open another door. A room gloomy with black walnut and
fragrant with camphor was dimly visible.

"Cheerful's a tomb, ain't it?" was Mrs. Coffin's comment. "Well, we'll
get some light and air in here pretty soon. Here's the front hall and
there's the front stairs. The parlor's off to the left. We won't bother
with that yet a while. This little place in here is what Mr. Langley
used to call his 'study.' Halloa! how this door sticks!"

The door did stick, and no amount of tugging could get it open, though
Grace added her efforts to those of Keziah.

"'Tain't locked," commented Mrs. Coffin, "cause there ain't any lock on
it. I guess it's just swelled and stuck from the damp. Though it's odd,
I don't remember--Oh, well! never mind. Let's sweeten up this settin'
room a little. Open a window or two in here. We'll have to hurry if we
want to do anything before it gets dark. I'm goin' into the kitchen to
get a broom."

She hurried out, returning in a moment or two with a broom and a most
disgusted expression.

"How's a body goin' to sweep with that?" she demanded, exhibiting the
frayed utensil, the business end of which was worn to a stub. "More
like a shovel, enough sight. Well, there's pretty nigh dust enough for
a shovel, so maybe this'll take off the top layers. S'pose I'll ever get
this house fit for Mr. Ellery to live in before he comes? I wonder if
he's a particular man?"

Grace, who was struggling with a refractory window, paused for breath.

"I'm sure I don't know," she replied. "I've never seen him."

"Nor I either. Sol was so bad the Sunday he preached that I couldn't go
to meetin'. They say his sermon was fine; all about those who go down to
the sea in ships. That's what got the parish committee, I guess; they're
all old salts. I wonder if he's as fine-lookin' as they say?"

Miss Van Horne tossed her head. She was resting, prior to making another
assault on the window.

"I don't know," she said. "And I'm sure I don't care. I don't like
good-looking ministers."

"Deary me! You're different from most females in this town, then. And
you spoke of his good looks yourself this very mornin'. Why don't you
like the good-lookin' ones?"

"Oh, because they're always conceited and patronizing and superior--and
spoiled. I can just imagine this Mr. Ellery of yours strutting about in
sewing circle or sociables, with Annabel and Georgianna Lothrop and the
rest simpering and gushing and getting in his way: 'O Mr. Ellery, I did
so enjoy that sermon of yours Sunday!' and 'O Mr. Ellery, it was SO good
of you to come this afternoon!' Pooh! I'm glad I'm a Come-Outer. Not
that I would simper over him if I wasn't. He couldn't patronize me--not
more than once, at any rate."

Keziah was greatly amused.

"Sakes alive!" she chuckled. "You're awfully high and mighty, seems to
me. And changeable since mornin'. You was willin' enough to talk about
him then. Now, Gracie, you mustn't take a spite against poor Mr. Ellery
just because I've got to keep house for him. 'Tain't his fault; he don't
even know it yet."

"I don't care. I know he'll be a conceited little snippet and I shall
hate the sight of him. There! there! Auntie, you mustn't mind me. I
told you I was a selfish pig. But don't you ask me to LIKE this precious
minister of yours, because I shan't do it. He has no business to come
and separate me from the best friend I've got. I'd tell him so if he was
here--What was that?"

Both women looked at each other with startled faces. They listened
intently.

"Why, wa'n't that funny!" whispered Keziah. "I thought I heard--"

"You DID hear. So did I. What do you suppose--"

"S-s-s-h-h! It sounded from the front room somewhere. And yet there
can't be anybody in there, because--My soul! there 'tis again. I'm goin'
to find out."

She grasped the stubby broom by the handle and moved determinedly toward
the front hall. Grace seized her by the arm.

"Don't you do it, auntie!" she whispered frantically. "Don't you DO it!
It may be a tramp."

"I don't care. Whoever or whatever it is, it has no business in this
house, and I'll make that plain in a hurry. Just like as not it's a cat
got in when Elkanah was here this forenoon. Don't be scared, Grace. Come
right along."

The girl came along, but not with enthusiasm. They tiptoed through the
dark, narrow hall and peered into the parlor. This apartment was dim and
still and gloomy, as all proper parlors should be, but there was no sign
of life.

"Humph!" sniffed Keziah. "It might have been upstairs, but it didn't
sound so. What did it sound like to you?"

"Like a footstep at first; and then like something falling--and
rustling. Oh, what is the matter?"

Mrs. Coffin was glancing back down the hall with a strange expression on
her face. Her grip upon the broom handle tightened.

"What IS it?" pleaded the girl in an agonized whisper.

"Grace," was the low reply, "I've just remembered somethin'. That study
door isn't stuck from the damp, because--well, because I remember now
that it was open this mornin'."

Before her companion could fully grasp the import of this paralyzing
fact, Keziah strode down the hall and seized the knob of the study door.

"Whoever you are in there," she commanded sternly, "open this door and
come out this minute. Do you hear? I'm orderin' you to come out."

There was an instant of silence; then a voice from within made answer, a
man's voice, and its tone indicated embarrassment.

"Madam," it said, "I--I am--I will be out in another minute. If you will
just be patient--"

Grace interrupted with a smothered shriek. Keziah brandished the broom.

"Patient!" she repeated sharply. "Well, I like that! What do you mean
by--Open that door! Grace, run out and get the--the constable."

This command was delivered entirely for effect. The office of constable
in Trumet is, generally speaking, a purely honorary one. Its occupant
had just departed for a week's cruise as mate of a mackerel schooner.
However, the effect was instantaneous. From behind the door came sounds
of hurry and commotion.

"Don't get the police on my account, please," said the voice. "If you
will be patient until I get this--I'm just as anxious to come out as you
can be to have me. Of all the ridiculous--"

"Come out then!" snapped Keziah. "Come out! If you're so everlastin'
anxious, then come out. Patience! Of all the cheek! Why don't you come
out NOW?"

The answer was brisk and to the point. Evidently, the unknown's stock of
the virtue which he demanded of others was diminishing.

"Well, to be frank, since you insist," snapped the voice, "I'm not fully
dressed."

This was a staggerer. For once Keziah did not have a reply ready.
She looked at Grace and the latter at her. Then, without words, they
retreated to the sitting room.

"Shall--shall I go for help?" whispered the girl. "Hadn't we better
leave him here and--He doesn't sound like a tramp, does he. What DO you
suppose--"

"I hope you won't be alarmed," continued the voice, broken by panting
pauses, as if the speaker was struggling into a garment. "I know this
must seem strange. You see, I came on the coach as far as Bayport
and then we lost a wheel in a rut. There was a--oh, dear! where IS
that--this is supremely idiotic!--I was saying there happened to be a
man coming this way with a buggy and he offered to help me along. He was
on his way to Wellmouth. So I left my trunk to come later and took my
valise. It rained on the way and I was wet through. I stopped at Captain
Daniels's house and the girl said he had gone with his daughter to the
next town, but that they were to stop here at the parsonage on their
way. So--there! that's right, at last!--so I came, hoping to find them.
The door was open and I came in. The captain and his daughter were not
here, but, as I was pretty wet, I thought I would seize the opportunity
to change my clothes. I had some dry--er--things in my valise and
I--well, then you came, you see, and--I assure you I--well, it was the
most embarrassing--I'm coming now."

The door opened. The two in the sitting room huddled close together,
Keziah holding the broom like a battle-ax, ready for whatsoever might
develop. From the dimness of the tightly shuttered study stepped the
owner of the voice, a stranger, a young man, his hair rumpled, his
tie disarranged, and the buttons of his waistcoat filling the wrong
buttonholes. Despite this evidence of a hasty toilet in semidarkness, he
was not unprepossessing. Incidentally, he was blushing furiously.

"I'm--I'm sure I beg your pardon, ladies," he stammered. "I scarcely
know what to say to you. I--"

His eyes becoming accustomed to the light in the sitting room, he was
now able to see his captors more clearly. He looked at Keziah, then at
Miss Van Horne, and another wave of blushes passed from his collar up
into the roots of his hair. Grace blushed, too, though, as she perfectly
well knew, there was no reason why she should.

Mrs. Coffin did not blush. This young fellow, although evidently not a
tramp or a burglar, had caused her some moments of distinct uneasiness,
and she resented the fact.

"Well," she observed rather tartly, "I'm sorry you don't know what to
say, but perhaps you might begin by telling us who you are and what you
mean by makin' a--er--dressin' room of a house that don't belong to
you, just because you happened to find the door unlocked. After that
you might explain why you didn't speak up when we first come, instead
of keepin' so mighty quiet. That looks kind of suspicious to me, I must
say."

The stranger's answer was prompt enough now. It was evident he resented
the suspicion.

"I didn't speak," he said, "because you took me by surprise and I
wasn't, as I explained--er--presentable. Besides, I was afraid of
frightening you. I assure you I hurried as fast as I could, quietly, and
when you began to talk"--his expression changed and there was a twitch
at the corner of his mouth--"I tried to hurry still faster, hoping you
might not hear me and I could make my appearance--or my escape--sooner.
As for entering the house--well, I considered it, in a way, my house; at
least, I knew I should live in it for a time, and--"

"Live in it?" repeated Keziah. "LIVE in it? Why! mercy on us! you don't
mean to say you're--"

She stopped to look at Grace. That young lady was looking at her with
an expression which, as it expressed so very much, is beyond ordinary
powers of description.

"My name is Ellery," said the stranger. "I am the minister--the new
minister of the Regular society."

Then even Keziah blushed.


CHAPTER III

IN WHICH KEZIAH ASSUMES A GUARDIANSHIP


Didama would have given her eyeteeth--and, for that matter, the entire
upper set--to have been present in that parsonage sitting room when the
Rev. John Ellery made his appearance. But the fates were against Didama
that day and it was months afterwards before she, or any of what
Captain Zeb Mayo called the "Trumet Daily Advertisers," picked up a hint
concerning it. Keziah and Grace, acquainted with the possibilities of
these volunteer news gatherers, were silent, and the Reverend John,
being in some respects a discreet young man with a brand-new ministerial
dignity to sustain, refrained from boasting of the sensation he had
caused. He thought of it very often, usually at most inconvenient times,
and when, by all the requirements of his high calling, his thought
should have been busy with different and much less worldly matters.

"I declare!" said Mrs. Thankful Payne, after the new minister's first
call at her residence, a week after his arrival at Trumet, "if Mr.
Ellery ain't the most sympathetic man. I was readin' out loud to him
the poem my cousin Huldy B.--her that married Hannibal Ellis over to
Denboro--made up when my second husband was lost to sea, and I'd just
got to the p'int in the ninth verse where it says:

          'The cruel billows crash and roar,
             And the frail craft is tempest-tossed,
           But the bold mariner thinks not of life, but says,
             "It is the fust schooner ever I lost."'

And 'twas, too, and the last, poor thing! Well, I just got fur as this
when I looked up and there was the minister lookin' out of the window
and his face was just as red, and he kept scowlin' and bitin' his
lips. I do believe he was all but sheddin' tears. Sympathy like that I
appreciate."

As a matter of fact, Mr. Ellery had just seen Grace Van Horne pass that
window. She had not seen him, but for the moment he was back in that
disgusting study, making a frenzied toilet in the dusk and obliged to
overhear remarks pointedly personal to himself.

Grace left the parsonage soon after the supposed tramp disclosed
his identity. Her farewells were hurried and she firmly refused Mrs.
Coffin's not too-insistent appeal to return to the house "up street"
and have supper. She said she was glad to meet Mr. Ellery. The young
minister affirmed his delight in meeting her. Then she disappeared in
the misty twilight and John Ellery surreptitiously wiped his perspiring
forehead with his cuff, having in his late desire for the primal
necessities forgotten such a trifling incidental as a handkerchief.

"Well, Mr. Ellery," observed Keziah, turning to her guest, or employer,
or incumbrance--at present she was more inclined to consider him the
latter--"well, Mr. Ellery, this has been kind of unexpected for all
hands, ain't it? If I'd known you was comin' to-day, I'd have done my
best to have things ready, but Cap'n Elkanah said not before day after
to-morrow and--but there, what's the use of talkin' that way? I didn't
know I was goin' to keep house for you till this very forenoon. Mercy
me, what a day this has been!"

The minister smiled rather one-sidedly.

"It's been something of a day for me," he admitted. "I am ahead of time
and I've made a lot of trouble, I'm afraid. But yesterday afternoon I
was ready and, to tell the truth, I was eager to come and see my new
home and get at my work. So I started on the morning train. Then the
stage broke down and I began to think I was stranded at Bayport.
But this kind-hearted chap from Wellmouth--I believe that's where he
lived--happened to pull up to watch us wrestling with the smashed wheel,
and when he found I was in a hurry to get to Trumet, offered to give me
a lift. His name was--was Bird. No, that wasn't it, but it was something
like Bird, or some kind of a bird."

"Bird?" repeated Keziah thoughtfully. "There's no Birds that I know of
in Wellmouth. Hum! Hey? 'Twa'n't Sparrow, was it?"

"That was it--Sparrow."

"Good land! Emulous Sparrow. Run consider'ble to whiskers and tongue,
didn't he?"

"Why, yes; he did wear a beard. As for tongue--well, he was
conversational, if that's what you mean."

"That's what I mean. If you rode twelve mile with Emulous, you must have
had an earache for the last six. Did he ask a question or two about your
personal affairs, here and there between times?"

Mr. Ellery laughed.

"Yes, one or two, between times," he admitted.

"I shan't die of surprise. Did you tell him who you was?"

"No-o, to be honest, I didn't. He was so very anxious to find out,
that--well, I dodged. I think he believed I was going to visit Captain
Daniels."

"Good enough! If I was governor of this state I wouldn't send any
Thanksgivin' proclamations down this way. I'd just write Em Peters and
Didama Rogers and a couple more like them and save myself the trouble.
They'd have all I wanted to proclaim spread from one end of the county
to the other in less'n a day, and a peck or two of extrys pitched in
for good measure. I'm awful glad you didn't tell Emulous you was the
minister. You see, Trumet's Trumet, and, considerin' everything, maybe
it's just as well nobody knows about your bein' shut up in that study.
Not but what 'twas all right, you know, but--"

"I understand. I'm not proud of it. Still, some one may have seen me
come here."

"No, no, they didn't. This fog is as thick as Injun-meal puddin'. Nobody
saw you."

"Well," with some hesitation, "the young lady who was here with you--"

"Oh, Grace Van Horne! She's all right. She won't tell. She ain't that
kind."

"Van Horne? That doesn't sound like a New England name."

"'Tisn't. Her folks come from Jersey somewheres. But she was adopted
by old Cap'n Hammond, who keeps the tavern down on the bay shore by the
packet wharf, and she's lived in Trumet since she was six years old. Her
father was Teunis Van Horne, and he was mate on Cap'n Eben's coastin'
schooner and was drowned off Hatteras. Eben was saved just by the skin
of his teeth and got a broken hip and religion while it happened. His
hip's better except that he's some lame; but his religion's been more
and more feverish ever since. He's one of the head Come-Outers, and
built their chapel with his own money. You mustn't think I'm speakin'
lightly of religion, nor of Cap'n Eben, either. He's a dear good soul as
ever was, but he is the narrowest kind of Come-Outer. His creed is
just about as wide as the chapel door, and that's as narrow as the way
leadin' to salvation; it IS the way, too, so the Come-Outers think."

"What are Come-Outers? Some new sect?"

"Sakes alive! Haven't you heard of Come-Outers? Cat's foot! Well, you'll
hear of 'em often enough from now on. They're folks who used to go to
our church, the Regular, but left because the services was too worldly,
with organs and choir singin', and the road to paradise too easy. No
need for me to tell you any more. You'll learn."

Mr. Ellery was interested. He had been in Trumet but once before, on the
occasion when he preached his trial sermon, and of that memorable
visit remembered little except the sermon itself, the pews filled
with captains and their families, and the awe-inspiring personality of
Captain Elkanah Daniels, who had been his host. To a young man, the ink
upon his diploma from the theological school still fresh, a trial sermon
is a weighty matter, and the preaching of it weightier still. He had
rehearsed it over and over in private, had delivered it almost through
clinched teeth, and had returned to his room in the Boston boarding
house with the conviction that it was an utter failure. Captain Elkanah
and the gracious Miss Annabel, his daughter, had been kind enough to
express gratification, and their praise alone saved him from despair.
Then, to his amazement, the call had come. Of casual conversation at the
church and about the Daniels's table he could recall nothing. So there
was another religious organization in town and that made up of seceders
from his own church. He was surprised.

"Er--this Miss Van Horne?" he asked. "Is she a--Come-Outer?"

Mrs. Coffin nodded.

"Yes," she said. "She's one. Couldn't be anything else and live with her
Uncle Eben, as she calls him."

The minister experienced a curious feeling of disappointment and
chagrin. This young person, already predisposed to regard a clergyman of
his denomination with disapproval, had seen him for the first time under
most humiliating circumstances. And he should never have the opportunity
to regain her favor, or his own self-respect, by his efforts in the
pulpit. No matter how well he might preach she would never hear him.

"Has this Captain Hammond no children of his own?" he asked.

Keziah's answer was short for her.

"Yes," she said. "One."

"Ah! another daughter?"

"No, a son. Name's Nathaniel, and he's a sea captain. He's on his way
from Surinam to New York now. They expect him to make port most any
time, I believe. Now, Mr. Ellery, I s'pose we've got to arrange for your
supper and stayin' overnight; and with this house the way 'tis and all,
I don't see--"

But the minister was still interested in the Hammond household.

"This Nathaniel Hammond?" he asked. "You don't seem enthusiastic over
him. Is he a black sheep?"

This reply also was short, but emphatic.

"No," said Keziah. "He's a fine man."

Then she resumed her semisoliloquy concerning her companion's
entertainment.

"I guess," she said, "that the best thing for you to do will be to go to
Cap'n Elkanah's. They'll be real glad to see you, I know, and you'll
be in time for supper, for Elkanah and Annabel have been to Denboro and
they'll be late home. They can keep you overnight, too, for it's a big
house with lots of rooms. Then, after breakfast to-morrow you come right
here. I'll have things somewhere near shipshape by then, I guess, though
the cleanin'll have to be mainly a lick and a promise until I can really
get at it. Your trunk'll be here on the coach, I s'pose, and that'll be
through early in the forenoon. Get on your hat and coat and I'll go with
you to Elkanah's."

The young man demurred a little at thrusting himself upon the
hospitality of the Daniels's home, but Keziah assured him that his
unexpected coming would cause no trouble. So he entered the now dark
study and came out wearing his coat and carrying his hat and valise in
his hand.

"I'm sure I'm ever so much obliged to you," he said. "And, as we are
going to be more or less together--or at least I guess as much from what
you say--would you mind if I suggest a mutual introduction. I'm John
Ellery; you know that already. And you--"

Keziah stopped short on her way to the door.

"Well, I declare!" she exclaimed. "If I ain't the very worst! Fact is,
you dropped in so ahead of time and in such a irregular sort of way,
that I never once thought of introducin' anybody; and I'm sure Grace
didn't. I'm Keziah Coffin, and Cap'n Elkanah and I signed articles, so
to speak, this mornin', and I'm goin' to keep house for you."

She explained the reason upsetting the former arrangement by which
Lurania Phelps was to have had the position.

"So I'm to keep house for you," she concluded. Adding: "For a spell,
anyhow."

"Why do you say that?" asked the minister.

"Well, you might not like me. You may be particular, you know."

"I think I can run that risk."

"Yes; well, you can't tell. Or I might not like you. You see, I'm pretty
particular myself," she added with a laugh.

At the Daniels's door Keziah turned her new charge over to Matilda Snow,
the hired girl. It was an indication of the family's social position
that they kept "hired help." This was unusual in Trumet in those days,
even among the well to do.

"Good night," said the young man, extending his hand. "Good night,
Miss--or is it Mrs.--Coffin?"

"Mrs. Good night."

"She's a widow," explained Matilda. "Husband died 'fore she come back
here to live. Guess he didn't amount to much; she never mentions his
name."

"There was one thing I meant to tell her," mused the minister,
hesitating on the threshold. "I meant to tell her not to attempt any
cleaning up at the parsonage to-night. To-morrow will do just as well."

"Heavens to Betsy!" sniffed the "hired help," speaking from the depths
of personal conviction, "nobody but a born fool would clean house in the
night, 'specially after the cleanin' she's been doin' at her own place.
I guess you needn't worry."

So Mr. Ellery did not worry. And yet, until three o'clock of the
following morning, the dull light of a whale-oil lantern illuminated the
rooms of the parsonage as Keziah scrubbed and swept and washed, giving
to the musty place the "lick and promise" she had prophesied. If the
spiders had prepared those ascension robes, they could have used them
that night.

After breakfast the wagons belonging to the Wellmouth furniture dealer
drove in at the gate of the little house opposite Captain Elkanah's, and
Keziah saw, with a feeling of homesickness which she hid beneath smiles
and a rattle of conversation, the worn household treasures which had
been hers, and her brother's before her, carried away out of her life.
Then her trunks were loaded on the tailboards of the wagons, to be left
at the parsonage, and with a sigh and a quick brush of her hand across
her eyes, she locked the door for the last time and walked briskly down
the road. Soon afterwards John Ellery, under the eminently respectable
escort of Captain Elkanah and Miss Annabel, emerged from the Daniels's
gate and followed her. Mrs. Didama Rogers, thankful for a clear
atmosphere and an unobstructed view, saw them pass and recognized the
stranger. And, within a quarter of an hour, she, arrayed in a hurried
calling costume, was spreading the news along the main road. The "Trumet
Daily Advertiser" had, so to speak, issued an extra.

Thus the new minister came to Trumet and thus Keziah Coffin became his
housekeeper. She entered upon her duties with the whole-hearted energy
peculiar to her. She was used to hard work, and, as she would have said,
felt lonesome without it. She cleaned that parsonage from top to bottom.
Every blind was thrown open and the spring sunshine poured in upon the
braided mats and the rag carpets. Dust flew in clouds for the first
day or two, but it flew out of windows and doors and was not allowed to
settle within. The old black walnut furniture glistened with oil. The
mirrors and the crockery sparkled from baths of hot water and soap. Even
St. Stephen, in the engravings on the dining-room wall, was forced to a
martyrdom of the fullest publicity, because the spots and smears on the
glass covering his sufferings were violently removed. In the sleeping
rooms upstairs the feather beds were beaten and aired, the sheets and
blankets and patchwork comforters exposed to the light, and the window
curtains dragged down and left to flap on the clothesline. The smell of
musty dampness disappeared from the dining room and the wholesome odors
of outdoors and of good things cooking took its place.

Keziah, in the midst of her labors, found time to coach her employer
and companion in Trumet ways, and particularly in the ways which Trumet
expected its clergymen to travel. On the morning following his first
night in the parsonage, he expressed himself as feeling the need of
exercise. He thought he should take a walk.

"Well," said his housekeeper from her station opposite him at the
breakfast table, "if I was you I wouldn't take too long a one. You'd
better be back here by ten, anyhow. Where was you thinkin' of goin'?"

Mr. Ellery had no particular destination in mind. He would like to see
something of the village and, perhaps, if she could give him the names
of a few of his parishioners, he might make a few calls. Keziah shook
her head.

"Gracious goodness!" she exclaimed. "I wouldn't advise you to do that.
You ain't been here long enough to make forenoon calls. If you should
catch some of the women in this town with aprons and calico on, they'd
never forgive you in this world. Wait till afternoon; they'll be
expectin' you then and they'll be rigged out in their best bibs and
tuckers. S'pose you found Annabel Daniels with her hair done up in
curl papers; what do you think would happen? Mornin's are no time
for ministers' calls. Even old Mr. Langley never made calls in the
forenoon--and he'd been here thirty-odd years."

"All right, you know best. Much obliged for the advice. Then I'll simply
take my walk and leave the calls until later."

"I'd be back by ten, though. Folks'll begin callin' on you by that
time."

"They will? Doesn't the rule work both ways?"

"Not with new ministers it don't. Cat's foot! You don't s'pose Didama
Rogers and Laviny Pepper and their kind'll wait any longer'n they can
help afore they come to see what you look like, do you?"

"Well, they must have seen me when I preached here before. I remember--"

"Mercy on us! that was in meetin'. Meetin's diff'rent. All they could
say to you then was how much they liked your sermon. They say that to
every minister that comes, no matter how they may pick him to pieces
afterwards. But here they can ask you questions; about how you came to
come here and what you think of it far's you've got, and what your views
are on certain points in the creed. Likewise, who your folks were and
whether they was well off, and a few things like that. Then they'll want
to see what kind of clothes you wear and--"

"Whew!" Ellery whistled. "You're unfolding a pleasant prospect for me, I
must say. Am I supposed to be catechized on all of my private affairs?"

"Of course! A minister hasn't got any private affairs; he's a public
character. There!" she laughed, as she poured the coffee, "I mustn't
discourage you. But don't you see that every mother's son--and, for that
matter, every daughter and children's child unto the third and fourth
generation--feel that, so long as they pay pew rent or put a cent in the
collection, they own a share in you. And we always keep a watch on our
investments down this way. That's the Yankee shrewdness you read so much
about, I guess."

The minister absently played with his spoon.

"I'm afraid you're a cynic," he said.

"No, no, I ain't. Though sometimes, considerin' everything, I feel as
though I had excuse enough if I wanted to belong to that tribe. But
you're young. You mustn't mind my sayin' that; if you was old, of
course, I wouldn't talk about ages. But you are young and this is your
first church. So you must start right. I'm no cynic, bless you. I've got
trust in human nature left--most kinds of human nature. If I hadn't, I'd
have more money, I s'pose. Perhaps you've noticed that those who trust a
good deal are usually poor. It's all right, Mr. Ellery; you go and take
your walk. And I'll walk into that pantry closet. It'll be a good deal
like walkin' into the Slough of Despond, but Christian came out on the
other side and I guess likely I will, if the supply of soapsuds holds
out."

When, promptly at ten o'clock, the minister returned from his walk,
he found Mrs. Rogers waiting in the sitting room. It is a prime
qualification of an alert reporter to be first on the scene of
sensation. Didama was seldom beaten. Mr. Ellery's catechism began.
Before it was over Keziah opened the door to admit Miss Pepper and
her brother. "Kyan" was nervous and embarrassed in the housekeeper's
presence. Lavinia was a glacier, moving majestically and freezing as it
moved. Keziah, however, was not even touched by the frost; she greeted
the pair cordially, and begged them to "take off their things."

It was dinner time before the catechizers departed. The catechized came
to the table with an impaired appetite. He looked troubled.

"Don't let it worry you, Mr. Ellery," observed Keziah calmly. "I think
I can satisfy you. Honest and true, I ain't half as bad as you might
think."

The minister looked more troubled than before; also surprised.

"Why, Mrs. Coffin!" he cried. "Could you hear--"

"No, no! I couldn't hear nothin' in that closet except my own opinion
on dirt and dust. But if I was as deaf as the man that set on the
powder keg and dropped his pipe ashes into it, it wouldn't have made any
difference. The man said after they picked him up that they needn't have
been so rough, he'd have moved without bein' pushed if they'd have made
signs they wanted to use the keg. And if I was out in the next lot I'd
have known what you was listenin' to in that sittin' room. They hinted
that they were real sorry for you, but 'twasn't any of THEIR doin's. The
parish committee, bein' just men, was apt to make mistakes in certain
matters. Of course everything MIGHT be well enough, and if you wa'n't
TOO particular about cookin' and so on, why--Anyhow, you mustn't think
that THEY were criticisin'. 'Twas only that they took an interest
and--That was about it, wasn't it?"

"Mrs. Coffin, I--I hope you don't think I paid any attention to their
remarks--of that kind, I mean. Honestly, I did my best to stop them. I
said--"

"Man alive! I'm not worried. Why should you be? We were talkin' about
trust just now--or I was. Well, you and I'll have to take each other on
trust for a while, until we see whether we're goin' to suit. If you see
anything that I'm goin' wrong in, I wish you'd tell me. And I'll do the
same by you, if that's agreeable. You'll hear a lot of things said about
me, but if they're very bad I give you my word they ain't true. And, to
be real frank, I'll probably hear some about you, which I'll take for
what they're worth and considerin' who said 'em. That's a good wholesome
agreement, I think, for both of us. What do you think?"

John Ellery said, with emphasis, that he thought well of it. He began to
realize that this woman, with her blunt common sense, was likely to be
a pilot worth having in the difficult waters which he must navigate as
skipper of the Regular church in Trumet. Also, he began to realize that,
as such a skipper, he was most inexperienced. And Captain Daniels
had spoken highly--condescendingly but highly--of his housekeeper's
qualifications and personality. So the agreement was ratified, with
relief on his part.

The first Sunday came and with it the first sermon. He read that sermon
to Keziah on Saturday evening and she approved of it as a whole, though
she criticised some of its details.

"Don't be afraid to put in plenty of salt," she said. "Where you've
got the Christian life and spirit written down as bein' like a quiet,
peaceful home, free from all distrust, and like that, why don't you
change it to a good safe anchorage, where the soul can ride forever
without fear of breakers or no'theasters or the dangers besettin' the
mariner on a lee shore. They'll understand that; it gets right home to
'em. There's scarcely a man or a woman in your congregation that ain't
been out of sight of land for weeks on a stretch."

The breakfast hour on Sunday would be at nine o'clock, instead of seven,
as on week days, she told him.

"Trumet lays to bed Sunday mornin's," she explained. "It's almost a part
of its religion, as you might say, and lived up to more conscientious
than some other parts, I'm afraid. Six days shalt thou labor and wear
comfort'ble clothes; and on the seventh you must be lazy and dress up.
Likewise you must have baked beans Saturday for supper, as we're havin'
'em, and more beans with fish balls next mornin'. That is, if you want
to be orthodox."

The service began at eleven o'clock. At half past ten the sexton,
old Mr. Jubal Knowles, rang the "first bell," a clanging five-minute
reminder. Twenty minutes later he began on the second and final call.
Mr. Ellery was ready--and nervous--before the first bell had finished
ringing. But Keziah, entering the sitting room dressed in black alpaca
and carrying the hymn book with her name in gilt letters on the cover,
forbade his leaving the parsonage thus early.

"I shall go pretty soon," she said, "but you mustn't. The minister ain't
expected until the last bell's 'most done. Parson Langley used to wait
until the Winslows went in. Gaius Winslow is a widower man who lives up
to the west end of the town and he's got nine children, all boys. You'll
know 'em because they always drive down to meetin' in one carryall with
a white horse. Gaius is as punctual as a boardin'-house dinner. The
old parson used to wait until the last Winslow had toddled up the
meetin'-house steps and then he'd come out of this side door with
his sermon in his hand. It's a pretty good rule to remember and saves
watchin' the clock. Besides, it's what we've been used to, and that goes
a good ways with some folks. Good-by, Mr. Ellery. You'll see me in the
third pew from the back, on the right side, wishin' you luck just as
hard as I can."

So, as in couples or family groups, afoot or in all sorts of vehicles,
the members of Trumet's Regular society came to the church to hear their
new minister, that functionary peeped under the parlor window shade of
the parsonage and waited, fidgetting and apprehensive, for the
Winslows. They arrived at last, and were not hard to recognize, for ten
individuals packed into one carriage are hard to overlook anywhere. As
Gaius, with the youngest in his arms, passed in at the church door, John
Ellery passed out of the parsonage gate. The last bell clanged its final
stroke, the vibrations ceased, the rustle of skirts and the sounds of
decorous coughing subsided and were succeeded by the dry rattle of the
hymn-book pages, the organ, presented by Captain Elkanah and played by
his daughter, uttered its preliminary groan, the service began.

Outside the spring breeze stirred the budding silver-leafs, the distant
breakers grumbled, the crows in the pines near Captain Eben Hammond's
tavern cawed ribald answers to the screaming gulls perched along the top
of the breakwater. And seated on one of the hard benches of the little
Come-Outer chapel, Grace Van Horne heard her "Uncle Eben," who, as
usual, was conducting the meeting, speak of "them who, in purple and
fine linen, with organs and trumpets and vain shows, are gathered
elsewhere in this community to hear a hired priest make a mock of the
gospel." (A-MEN!)

But John Ellery, the "hired priest," knew nothing of this. He did know,
however, that he was the center of interest for his own congregation,
the people among whom he had been called to labor. Their praise or
criticism meant everything to him; therefore he preached for dear life.

And Keziah Coffin, in the third pew from the back, watched him intently,
her mind working in sympathetic unison with his. She was not one to
be greatly influenced by first impressions, but she had been favorably
impressed by this young fellow, and had already begun to feel that sense
of guardianship and personal responsibility which, later on, was to make
Captain Zebedee Mayo nickname the minister "Keziah's Parson."

The sermon was a success.


CHAPTER IV

IN WHICH KEZIAH'S PARSON DECIDES TO RUN IT BLINDFOLD


On Monday afternoon the minister made a few calls. Keziah made out a
short list for him to follow, a "sort of chart of the main channel," she
called it, "with the safe ports marked and the shoals and risky places
labeled dangerous."

"You see," she said, "Trumet ain't a course you can navigate with your
eyes shut. We divide ourselves into about four sets--aristocrats, poor
relations, town folks, and scum. The aristocrats are the big bugs like
Cap'n Elkanah and the other well-off sea captains, afloat or ashore.
They 'most all go to the Regular church and the parish committee is
steered by 'em. The poor relations are mainly widows and such, whose
husbands died or were lost at sea. Most of them are Regulars. The town
folks are those that stay ashore and keep store or run salt works or
somethin'. And the scum work around on odd jobs or go fishin'. So, if
you really want to be safe, you must call on the aristocrats first,
after that on the poor relations, and so on down. You won't be bothered
with scum much; they're mainly Come-Outers."

Ellery took the list from her hand and looked it over.

"Hum!" he said musingly. "Am I supposed to recognize these--er--class
distinctions?"

"Yes. That is, not in meetin' or sewin' circle or anything like that, or
not out and out and open anywhere. But you want to cultivate a sort of
different handshake and how-dy-do for each set, so's to speak. Gush all
you want to over an aristocrat. Be thankful for advice and always SO
glad to see 'em. With the poor relations you can ease up on the gush and
maybe condescend some. Town folks expect condescension and superiority;
give it to 'em. When it comes to scum, why--well, any short kind of a
bow and a 'Mornin' 'll do for them. 'Course the Lord, in His infinite
mercy, made 'em, same as He did potato bugs, but it's necessary to keep
both bugs and them down to their proper place."

She delivered this in the intervals between trips to the kitchen with
the dinner dishes. The minister listened with a troubled expression on
his face.

"Mrs. Coffin," he said, "I guess I'm dull. There was a Scotch professor
at college and the fellows used to say his bump of humor was a dent.
Maybe mine isn't much better. Are you joking?"

Keziah stacked the cups and saucers.

"I ain't jokin'," she declared. "I've been a poor relation in this
village for a good while and my brother was a shoemaker and on the upper
fringe of the town-folk class. My humor bump would have to stick up like
Cannon Hill afore I could see any joke in that."

"But you're not seriously advising me to treat a rich man differently
from a poor one?"

"Not openly different--no. But if you want to steer a perfectly SAFE
course, one that'll keep deep water under your keel the whole voyage,
why, there's your chart."

Mr. Ellery promptly tore the "chart" into small pieces.

"I'm going out," he said. "I shall be back by supper time."

Mrs. Coffin eyed him grimly.

"Goin' to run it blindfold, are you?" she asked.

"Yes, I am."

Her grimness disappeared and she smiled.

"I'll have your supper ready for you," she said. "Bring back a good
appetite."

The young man hesitated on the threshold.

"Mrs. Coffin," he demanded, "would YOU have called only on the
aristocrats at first?"

She shook her head, smiling still.

"No," she replied, "not me. I've always taken risks. But I didn't
know but you might be a safe sailor. It saves a lot of trouble in this
world."

"How about the next?"

"Oh, well, perhaps even the scum may count for somethin' over there."
She turned to face him and her smile vanished. "Go on, Mr. Ellery," she
said. "Go and call where you please. Far be it from me that I should
tell you to do anything else. I suppose likely you hope some day to be
a great preacher. I hope you will. But I'd enough sight rather you was a
good man than the very greatest. No reason why you can't be both. There
was a preacher over in Galilee once, so you told us yesterday, who was
just good. 'Twa'n't till years afterwards that the crowd came to realize
that he was great, too. And, if I recollect right, he chummed in with
publicans and sinners. I'm glad you tore up that fool paper of mine. I
hoped you might when I gave it to you. Now you run along, and I'll wash
dishes. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then a parson ought to eat
out of clean plates."

As a matter of fact, the minister's calls were in the nature of a
compromise, although an unintentional one. He dropped in on Zebedee
Mayo, owner of the big house on the slope of the hill. Captain Zeb took
him up into what he called his "cupoler," the observatory on the top of
the house, and showed him Trumet spread out like a map. The main road
was north and south, winding and twisting its rutted, sandy way. Along
it were clustered the principal houses and shops, shaded by silver-leaf
poplars, a few elms, and some willows and spruces. Each tree bent
slightly away from the northeast, the direction from which blew the
heavy winter gales. Beyond the main road were green slopes and pastures,
with swamps in the hollows, swamps which were to be cranberry bogs in
the days to come. Then the lower road, with more houses, and, farther
on, the beach, the flats--partially uncovered because it was high
tide--and the bay.

Behind the Mayo house was the crest of Cannon Hill, more hills, pastures
and swamps, scattered houses and pine groves. Then began the tumbled,
humped waste of sand dunes, and, over their ragged fringes of beach plum
and bayberry bushes, the deep blue of the wide Atlantic. The lighthouse
was a white dot and the fish shanties a blotch of brown. Along the inner
edge of the blue were scars of dancing white, the flashing teeth of
hungry shoals which had torn to pieces and swallowed many a good ship.
And, far out, dotted and sprinkled along the horizon, were sails.

"See?" said Captain Zeb, puffing still from the exertion of climbing
the ladder to the "cupoler," for he was distinctly "fleshy." "See? The
beacon's up. Packet come in this mornin'. There she is. See her down
there by the breakwater?"

Sure enough, the empty barrel, painted red, was hoisted to the top of
its pole on the crest of Cannon Hill. And, looking down at the bay and
following the direction of the stubby pointing finger, Ellery saw a
little schooner, with her sails lowered, lying, slightly on her side,
in a shallow pool near a long ridge of piled stones--the breakwater. A
small wharf made out from the shore and black figures moved briskly upon
it. Carts were alongside the schooner and there more dots were busy.

"Eben's pennant's flyin'," said Captain Zeb. "He always sets colors
when the packet's in. Keeps packet tavern, Eben does. That's it, that
old-fashioned, gambrel-roofed house on the rise by the wharf. Call it
'Saints' Rest,' they do now, 'cause Eben's so mighty religious."

The minister saw the long, rambling house, with one lonely, twisted tree
in its yard, a flag flying from a pole beside it. So that was where
the Hammonds lived. And where the girl lived who was certain he was a
"conceited snippet." Whatever he might be in reality he hoped it was not
that. "Snippet" was not in his dictionary, but he didn't like the sound
of it.

"Who owns the packet?" he asked, to make conversation.

"Zach Foster. Married Freewill Doane's daughter over to Harniss. She's
dead now."

"A good sailor, is he?"

Captain Zeb spat in supreme disgust.

"Good farmer!" he snorted. "Zach took over the packet for a debt when
the chap that used to run her died. His dad, old man Foster, raised
garden truck at the same time mine went to sea. Both of us took after
our fathers, I guess. Anyhow, my wife says that when I die 'twill be of
salt water on the brain, and I'm sure Zach's head is part cabbage. Been
better for him if he'd stuck to his garden. However, I s'pose he does
his best."

"They say angels can do no more."

"Um-m. Well, Zach'll be an angel pretty soon if he keeps on cruisin'
with that old hooker as she is. 'Bijah Perry, he's mate and the only
good seaman aboard, tells me that most of the riggin's rotten and the
main topmast ain't sound, by a good deal. The old man's put off havin'
her overhauled for two reasons, one that repairs cost money, and t'other
that puttin' off is the main sheet of his gospel. When there's no rain
the roof don't leak and long's it don't blow too hard 'most any kind of
gear'll hold. That's philosophy--cabbage philosophy."

Ellery decided that he should like Captain Zeb, although it was evident
that the old whaler had decided opinions of his own which he did not
hesitate to express. He judged that the Mayos were of the so-called
aristocracy, but undoubtedly unique specimens. He visited four more
households that afternoon. The last call was at Mrs. Thankful Payne's,
and while there, listening to the wonderful "poem," he saw Miss Van
Horne pass the window, as has already been told. He came home to a Cape
Cod supper of scalloped clams, hot biscuits, and baked Indian pudding,
and Keziah greeted him with a cheery smile which made him feel that it
WAS home. His summary disposal of the "chart" had evidently raised him
in his housekeeper's estimation. She did not ask a single question as to
where he had been.

Next day he had a taste of Trumet's real aristocracy, the genuine
article. Captain Elkanah Daniels and his daughter made their first
formal call. The captain was majestic in high hat, fur-collared cape,
tailed coat, and carrying a gold-headed cane. Miss Annabel wore her
newest gown and bonnet and rustled as she walked. They entered the
sitting room and the lady glanced superciliously about the apartment.

"Hum--ha!" barked Captain Elkanah. "Ahem! Mr. Ellery, I trust you're
being made comfortable. The parish committee are--hum--ah--anxious that
you should be. Yes?"

The minister said that he was very comfortable indeed.

"It isn't what you've been used to, we know," observed Miss Annabel.
"Mr. Langley, our former pastor, was a sweet old gentleman, but he was
old-fashioned and his tastes were queer, especially in art. Have you
noticed that 'fruit piece' in the dining room? Isn't it too ridiculous?"

Ellery admitted that the fruit piece was rather funny; but no doubt it
had been a gift and so

--"Yes, indeed. I guess it was a present, fast enough. Nobody would buy
such a thing. It seems strange to pa and me that, although so many of
our people have been abroad, they have such strange ideas of art. Do you
remember the beautiful marbles in the palaces at Florence, Mr. Ellery?
Of course you've seen them?"

The minister was obliged to admit that he had never been abroad.

"Oh, is that so? I've been so many times with pa that it seems almost
as if everybody was as familiar with Yurrup as I am. You remember what I
said about the marbles, pa?"

Her parent nodded.

"Hum--ha! Oh, yes, yes," he said. "That was when I was in the
fruit-carrying trade and made a voyage to Valenchy."

"Valencia, pa," corrected Annabel. "And Valencia is in Spain."

"I know it. But we went to Leghorn afterwards. I sailed to Cronstadt for
some years regular. Cronstadt is in Rooshy, Mr. Ellery."

"Russia, pa," snapped his daughter. Then she changed the subject to
church and parish affairs. They spoke of the sewing circle and the
reading society and the Friday-evening meetings.

"The Come-Outers are so vexed with us," tittered Miss Annabel, "that
they won't even hold prayer meeting on the same night as ours. They have
theirs on Thursday nights and it's as good as a play to hear them shout
and sing and carry on. You'll enjoy the Come-Outers, Mr. Ellery. They're
a perfect delight."

And as they rose to go Captain Elkanah asked:

"Is there anything you'd like done about the parsonage, Mr. Ellery?
If so, it shall be done immejitly. How are you satisfied with your
housekeeper?"

"Very well, indeed, Captain Daniels," was the prompt reply.

"She's a character, isn't she?" giggled Annabel. "She was born here
in Trumet, but went away to New Bedford when she was young and grew up
there. Her maiden name was Hall, but while she was away she married a
man named Ansel Coffin. They didn't live together very long and weren't
happy, I guess. I don't know whose fault it was, nobody knows much
of anything about it, for that's the one thing she won't talk about.
Anyhow, the Coffin man was lost to sea, and after a while she came back
to keep house for her brother Solomon. She's an awful odd stick, but
she's a good cook, I believe; though I'm afraid you won't get the meals
people such as ourselves, who've been so much in the city, are used to."

Ellery thought of the meals at his city boarding house and shuddered. He
was an orphan and had boarded for years. Incidentally, he had worked his
way through college. Captain Elkanah cleared his throat.

"Keziah," he commanded. "Hum--ha! Keziah, come in here a minute."

Keziah came in response to the call, her sewing in her hand. The
renovation of the parsonage had so far progressed that she could now
find time for a little sewing, after the dinner dishes were done.

"Keziah," said the captain pompously, "we expect you to look out for Mr.
Ellery in every respect. The parish committee expects that--yes."

"I'll try," said Mrs. Coffin shortly.

"Yes. Well, that's all. You can go. We must be going, too, Mr.
Ellery. Please consider our house at your disposal any time. Be
neighborly--hum--ha!--be neighborly."

"Yes," purred Annabel. "DO come and see us often. Congenial society is
very scarce in Trumet, for me especially. We can read together. Are you
fond of Moore, Mr. Ellery? I just dote on him."

The last "hum--ha" was partially drowned by the click of the gate.
Keziah closed the dining-room door.

"Mrs. Coffin," said the minister, "I shan't trouble the parish
committee. Be sure of that. I'm perfectly satisfied."

Keziah sat down in the rocker and her needle moved very briskly for a
moment. Then she said, without looking up:

"That's good. I own up I like to hear you say it. And I am glad there
are some things I do like about this new place of mine. Because--well,
because there's likely to be others that I shan't like at all."

On Friday evening the minister conducted his first prayer meeting.
Before it, and afterwards, he heard a good deal concerning the
Come-Outers. He learned that Captain Eben Hammond had preached against
him in the chapel on Sunday. Most of his own parishioners seemed to
think it a good joke.

"Stir 'em up, Mr. Ellery," counseled Lavinia Pepper. "Stir 'em up! Don't
be afraid to answer em from the pulpit and set 'em where they belong.
Ignorant, bigoted things!"

Others gave similar counsel. The result was that the young man became
still more interested in these people who seemed to hate him and all he
stood for so profoundly. He wished he might hear their side of the case
and judge it for himself. It may as well be acknowledged now that John
Ellery had a habit of wishing to judge for himself. This is not always a
politic habit in a country minister.

The sun of the following Thursday morning rose behind a curtain of fog
as dense as that of the day upon which Ellery arrived. A flat calm in
the forenoon, the wind changed about three o'clock and, beginning with
a sharp and sudden squall from the northwest, blew hard and steady. Yet
the fog still cloaked everything and refused to be blown away.

"There's rain astern," observed Captain Zeb, with the air of authority
which belongs to seafaring men when speaking of the weather. "We'll get
a hard, driving rain afore mornin', you see. Then, if she still holds
from the northwest'ard, it'll fair off fine."

"Goin' out in this, Mr. Ellery!" exclaimed Keziah, in amazement, as the
minister put on his hat and coat about seven that evening. "Sakes alive!
you won't be able to see the way to the gate. It's as dark as a nigger's
pocket and thicker than young ones in a poor man's family, as my father
used to say. You'll be wet through. Where in the world are you bound for
THIS night?"

The minister equivocated. He said he had been in the house all day and
felt like a walk.

"Well, take an umbrella, then," was the housekeeper's advice. "You'll
need it before you get back, I cal'late."

It was dark enough and thick enough, in all conscience. The main road
was a black, wet void, through which gleams from lighted windows were
but vague, yellow blotches. The umbrella was useful in the same way
that a blind man's cane is useful, in feeling the way. The two or
three stragglers who met the minister carried lanterns. One of these
stragglers was Mr. Pepper. Kyan was astonished.

"Well, I snum!" cried Kyan, raising the lantern. "If 'tain't Mr. Ellery.
Where you bound this kind of night?"

Before the minister could answer, a stately figure appeared and joined
the pair. Lavinia, of course.

"Well, Mr. Ellery," she said. "Ain't you lost, out in this fog? Anybody
sick?"

No, no one was sick.

"That's a mercy. Goin' callin', be you?"

"No."

"Hum! Queer weather for a walk, I call it. Won't be many out to-night,
except Come-Outers goin' to holler their lungs loose at prayer meetin'.
He, he! You ain't turned Come-Outer, have you, Mr. Ellery? You've headed
right for the chapel."

Ellery's reply was hurried and a bit confused. He said good night and
went on.

"Laviny," whispered the shocked Kyan, "do you think that was
a--er--polite thing to say to a parson? That about his turnin'
Come-Outer? He didn't make much answer, seemed to me. You don't think he
was mad, do ye?"

"I don't care if he was," snorted Miss Pepper. "He could tell a body
where he was goin' then. Nobody can snub me, minister or not. I think
he's kind of stuck-up, if you want to know, and if he is, he'll get took
down in a hurry. Come along, don't stand there with your mouth open like
a flytrap. I'd like to know what he was up to. I've a precious good mind
to follow him; would if 'twa'n't so much trouble."

She didn't. Yet, if she had, she would have deemed the trouble worth
while. For John Ellery stumbled on through the mist till he reached the
"Corners" where the store was located and the roads forked. There, he
turned to the right, into the way called locally "Hammond's Turn-off."
A short distance down the "Turn-off" stood a small, brown-shingled
building, its windows alight. Opposite its door, on the other side of
the road, grew a spreading hornbeam tree surrounded by a cluster of
swamp blackberry bushes. In the black shadow of the hornbeam Mr. Ellery
stood still. He was debating in his mind a question: should he or should
he not enter that building?

As he stood there, groups of people emerged from the fog and darkness
and passed in at the door. Some of them he had seen during his fortnight
in Trumet. Others were strangers to him. A lantern danced and wabbled up
the "Turn-off" from the direction of the bay shore and the packet wharf.
It drew near, and he saw that it was carried by an old man with long
white hair and chin beard, who walked with a slight limp. Beside him was
a thin woman wearing a black poke bonnet and a shawl. In the rear of
the pair came another woman, a young woman, judging by the way she was
dressed and her lithe, vigorous step. The trio halted on the platform of
the building. The old man blew out the lantern. Then he threw the door
open and a stream of yellow light poured over the group.

The young woman was Grace Van Horne. The minister recognized her at
once. Undoubtedly, the old man with the limp was her guardian, Captain
Eben Hammond, who, by common report, had spoken of him, Ellery, as a
"hired priest."

The door closed. A few moments thereafter the sound of a squeaky
melodeon came from within the building. It wailed and quavered and
groaned. Then, with a suddenness that was startling, came the first
verse of a hymn, sung with tremendous enthusiasm:

          "Oh, who shall answer when the Lord shall call
             His ransomed sinners home?"

The hallelujah chorus was still ringing when the watcher across the
street stepped out from the shadow of the hornbeam. Without a pause he
strode over to the platform. Another moment and the door had shut behind
him.

The minister of the Trumet Regular church had entered the Come-Outer
chapel to attend a Come-Outer prayer meeting!


CHAPTER V

IN WHICH THE PARSON CRUISES IN STRANGE WATERS


The Come-Outer chapel was as bare inside, almost, as it was without.
Bare wooden walls, a beamed ceiling, a raised platform at one end with
a table and chairs and the melodeon upon it, rows of wooden settees for
the congregation--that was all. As the minister entered, the worshipers
were standing up to sing. Three or four sputtering oil lamps but dimly
illumined the place and made recognition uncertain.

The second verse of the hymn was just beginning as Ellery came in. Most
of the forty or more grown people in the chapel were too busy wrestling
with the tune to turn and look at him. A child here and there in the
back row twisted a curious neck but twisted back again as parental
fingers tugged at its ear. The minister tiptoed to a dark corner and
took his stand in front of a vacant settee.

The man whom Ellery had decided must be Captain Eben Hammond was
standing on the low platform beside the table. A quaint figure,
patriarchal with its flowing white hair and beard, puritanical with its
set, smooth-shaven lips and tufted brows. Captain Eben held an open hymn
book back in one hand and beat time with the other. He wore brass-bowed
spectacles well down toward the tip of his nose. Swinging a heavy,
stubby finger and singing in a high, quavering voice of no particular
register, he led off the third verse:

          "Oh, who shall weep when the roll is called
             And who shall shout for joy?"

The melodeon and the hymn book were in accord as to the tune, but
Captain Eben and the various members of the congregation seemed to have
a desire to improvise. They sang with spirit, however, and the rhythmic
pat of feet grew louder and louder. Here and there men and women were
swaying and rocking their bodies in time to the music. The chorus for
each verse was louder than the one preceding it.

Another hymn was given out and sung. And another and still another. The
windows rattled. The patting grew to a steady "thump! thump!" Momentary
pauses between lines were punctuated by hallelujahs and amens. Standing
directly in front of the minister was a six-foot, raw-boned individual
whose clothes smelled strongly of fish, and whose hands, each swung
at the end of an exposed five inches of hairy red wrist, looked like
flippers. At the end of the third hymn this personage sprang straight up
into the air, cracked the heels of a pair of red cowhide boots together,
and whooped: "Glory be! Send the PAOWER!" in a voice like the screech
of a northeast gale. Mr. Ellery, whom this gymnastic feat had taken by
surprise, jumped in sympathy, although not as high.

The singing over, the worshipers sat down. Captain Eben took a
figured handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead. The thin,
nearsighted young woman who had been humped over the keyboard of the
melodeon, straightened up. The worshipers relaxed a little and began to
look about.

Then the captain adjusted his spectacles and opened a Bible, which he
took from the table beside him. Clearing his throat, he announced that
he would read from the Word, tenth chapter of Jeremiah:

"'Thus saith the Lord. Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not
dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

"'For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of
the forest, the work of the hands of the workmen, with the ax.'"

He read in a measured singsong, stopping occasionally to hold the book
in a better light and peering at the fine print through his spectacles.
And as he read, there was a sudden rustle on one of the back benches. A
child had turned, stared, and pulled at its mother's sleeve. The rustle
grew and spread.

Captain Eben drawled on to the twentieth verse:

"'My tabernacle is spoiled and all my cords are broken: my children are
gone forth from me, and they are not: there is none to stretch forth my
tent any more, and to set up my curtains!

"'For the pastors are become brutish and have not sought the Lord:
therefore they shall not prosper, and--'"

"A-MEN!"

The shout came from the second bench from the front, where Ezekiel
Bassett, clam digger and fervent religionist, was always to be found on
meeting nights. Ezekiel was the father of Susannah B. Bassett, "Sukey
B." for short, who played the melodeon. He had been, by successive
seizures, a Seventh Day Baptist, a Second Adventist, a Millerite, a
Regular, and was now the most energetic of Come-Outers. Later he was to
become a Spiritualist and preside at table-tipping seances.

Ezekiel's amen was so sudden and emphatic that it startled the reader
into looking up. Instead of the faces of his congregation, he found
himself treated to a view of their back hair. Nearly every head
was turned toward the rear corner of the room, there was a buzz of
whispering and, in front, many men and women were standing up to look.
Captain Eben was scandalized.

"Well!" he exclaimed. "Is this a prayer meetin' or--or--what? Brethren
and sisters, I must say--"

Ezekiel Bassett stepped forward and whispered in his ear. The
captain's expression of righteous indignation changed to one of blank
astonishment. He, too, gazed at the dark corner. Then his lips tightened
and he rapped smartly on the table.

"Brethren and sisters," he thundered, in the voice which, of old, had
enforced obedience aboard his coasting schooner, "remember this is the
house of the Lord. Be reverent!"

He waited until every eye had swung about to meet his. Then he regarded
his abashed but excited hearers with a steady and prolonged stare.

"My friends," he said, "let us bow in prayer."

John Ellery could have repeated that prayer, almost word for word, years
after that night. The captain prayed for the few here gathered together:
Let them be steadfast. Let them be constant in the way. The path they
were treading might be narrow and beset with thorns, but it was the path
leading to glory.

"Scoffers may sneer," he declared, his voice rising; "they may make a
mock of us, they may even come into Thy presence to laugh at us, but
theirs is the laugh that turns to groanin'. O Lord, strengthen us
to-night to speak what's in our hearts, without fear." ("A-men!") "To
prophesy in Thy name! To bid the mockers and them that dare--dare to
profane this sanctuary be careful. Hired singers and trumpets and vain
shows we have not" ("Thank the Lord! Amen!"), "but the true faith and
the joy of it we do have." ("Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Glory!")

And so on, his remarks becoming more personal and ever pointing like
a compass needle to the occupant of that seat in the corner. The
minister's determination to attend a Come-Outer meeting, though it had
reached the sticking point only a half hour before, was the result of
considerable deliberation. He had argued with himself and had made up
his mind to find out for himself just what these people did. He was
finding out, certainly. His motives were good and he had come with no
desire to scoff, but, for the life of him, he could not help feeling
like a criminal. Incidentally, it provoked him to feel that way.

"O Lord," prayed Captain Hammond, the perspiration in beads on his
forehead, "Thou hast said that the pastors become brutish and have not
sought Thee and that they shan't prosper. Help us tonight to labor with
this one that he may see his error and repent in sackcloth and ashes."

They sang once more, a hymn that prophesied woe to the unbeliever.
Then Ezekiel Bassett rose to "testify." The testimony was mainly to the
effect that he was happy because he had fled to the ark of safety while
there was yet time.

"I found out," he shouted, "that fancy music and--ah--and--ah--sot
sermons and fine duds and suchlike wa'n't goin' to do ME no good.
I needed somethin' else. I needed good times in my religion"
("Hallelujah!") "and I've found 'em right here. Yes, sir! right here.
And I say this out loud," turning to glare at the intruder, "and I don't
care who comes to poke fun at me for sayin' it." ("Amen!")

A sharp-nosed female followed Mr. Bassett. She spoke with evident
feeling and in a voice that trembled and shook when her emotion carried
it aloft. SHE'D had enough of high-toned religion. Yes, and of them that
upheld it. When her brother Simeon was took bad with phthisic, "wheezin'
like a busted bellerses" and 'twas "up and down, trot, trot, trot," to
fetch and carry for him day in and night out, did the folks from the
Reg'lar church help her? She guessed NOT. The only one that came nigh
her was Laviny Pepper, and she came only to gas and gabble and find out
things that wa'n't none of her business. What help she got was from
a Come-Outer, from Eben Hammond, bless his good soul! ("Amen!") That
phthisic settled her for Reg'larism. Yes, and for them that preached it,
too. So there!

Captain Eben called for more testimony. But the testifiers were, to use
the old minstrel joke, backward in coming forward that evening. At an
ordinary meeting, by this time, the shouts and enthusiasm would have
been at their height and half a dozen Come-Outers on their feet at once,
relating their experiences and proclaiming their happiness. But tonight
there was a damper; the presence of the leader of the opposition cast a
shadow over the gathering. Only the bravest attempted speech. The others
sat silent, showing their resentment and contempt by frowning glances
over their shoulders and portentous nods one to the other.

"Come, brethren," commanded the captain sharply; "we are waitin' to hear
you. Are you afraid? If your faith is real, nothin' nor nobody should
keep you from cryin' it out loud. Now, if ever, is the accepted time.
Speak up for the spirit that's in you."

An elderly man, grave and quiet, arose and said a few words, dignified
and solemn words of prayer and thankfulness for the comfort this little
society of true believers had been to him. Ellery realized that here
was another sort of Come-Outer, one of the Hammond type. Evidently, they
were not all like Ezekiel and the shrill-voiced woman.

Then, from the settee in front of him, rose the lengthy and fishy person
with the cowhide boots and enormous hands. His name was Josiah Badger
and he was, according to Trumet's estimate, "a little mite lackin' in
his top riggin'." He stuttered, and this infirmity became more and more
apparent as he grew eloquent.

"I--I ain't afraid," he proclaimed. "They can call me a C-C-Come-Outer
all they want to. I--I don't care if they do. Let 'em, I say; l-let 'em!
They can p-p-poke their fun and p-p-p-pup-pup-poke it, but I tell 'em
to h-heave ahead and p-pup-pup-POKE. When I used to g-go to their old
Reg'lar meetin' house, all I done was to go to sleep. But I don't go
to sleep here, glory hallelujah! No, sir! There's too much b-b-blessed
noise and we have too g-good times to g-go to sleep here. That old
K-Kyan Pepper called me t-town f-fool t'other day. T-tut-town fool's
what he called me. Says I to him, says I: 'You-you-y-you ain't got spunk
enough to be a fool,' I says, 'unless Laviny says you c-can be. You old
Reg'lar p-p-pepper shaker, you!"

By this time tee-hees from the children and chuckles from some of the
older members interfered with Mr. Badger's fervent but jerky discourse.
Captain Eben struck the table smartly.

"Silence!" he thundered. "Silence! Brother Badger, I beg your pardon for
'em. Go on!"

But Josiah's train of thought had evidently been derailed by the
interruption.

"I--I--I cal'late that's about all," he stammered and sat down.

The captain looked over the meeting.

"I'm ashamed," he said, "ashamed of the behavior of some of us in the
Lord's house. This has been a failure, this service of ours. We have
kept still when we should have justified our faith, and allowed the
presence of a stranger to interfere with our duty to the Almighty. And
I will say," he added, his voice rising and trembling with indignation,
"to him who came here uninvited and broke up this meetin', that it would
be well for him to remember the words of Scriptur', 'Woe unto ye, false
prophets and workers of iniquity.' Let him remember what the Divine
wisdom put into my head to read to-night: 'The pastors have become
brutish and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not
prosper.'"

"Amen!" "Amen!" "Amen!" "So be it!" The cries came from all parts of the
little room. They ceased abruptly, for John Ellery was on his feet.

"Captain Hammond," he said, "I realize that I have no right to speak in
this building, but I must say one word. My coming here to-night may have
been a mistake; I'm inclined to think it was. But I came not, as you
seem to infer, to sneer or to scoff; certainly I had no wish to disturb
your service. I came because I had heard repeatedly, since my arrival
in this town, of this society and its meetings. I had heard, too, that
there seemed to be a feeling of antagonism, almost hatred, against me
among you here. I couldn't see why. Most of you have, I believe, been at
one time members of the church where I preach. I wished to find out for
myself how much of truth there was in the stories I had heard and to
see if a better feeling between the two societies might not be brought
about. Those were my reasons for coming here to-night. As for my being
a false prophet and a worker of iniquity"--he smiled--"well, there is
another verse of Scripture I would call to your attention: 'Judge not,
that ye be not judged.'"

He sat down. There was silence for a moment and then a buzz of
whispering. Captain Eben, who had heard him with a face of iron
hardness, rapped the table.

"We will sing in closin'," he said, "the forty-second hymn. After which
the benediction will be pronounced."

The Regular minister left the Come-Outers' meeting with the unpleasant
conviction that he had blundered badly. His visit, instead of tending
toward better understanding and more cordial relationship, had
been regarded as an intrusion. He had been provoked into a public
justification, and now he was quite sure that he would have been more
politic to remain silent. He realized that the evening's performance
would cause a sensation and be talked about all over town. The
Come-Outers would glory in their leader's denunciation of him, and his
own people would perhaps feel that it served him right. If he had only
told Mrs. Coffin of what he intended to do. Yet he had not told her
because he meant to do it anyhow. Altogether it was a rather humiliating
business.

So that old bigot was the Van Horne girl's "uncle." It hardly seemed
possible that she, who appeared so refined and ladylike when he met her
at the parsonage, should be a member of that curious company. When
he rose to speak he had seen her in the front row, beside the thin,
middle-aged female who had entered the chapel with Captain Hammond and
with her. She was looking at him intently. The lamp over the speaker's
table had shone full on her face and the picture remained in his memory.
He saw her eyes and the wavy shadows of her hair on her forehead.

He stepped off the platform, across the road, out of the way of
homeward-bound Come-Outers, and stood there, thinking. The fog was
as heavy and wet as ever; in fact, it was almost a rain. The wind
was blowing hard from the northwest. The congregation dispersed in
chattering groups, their lanterns dipping and swinging like fireflies.
The chatter dealt entirely with one subject--himself. He heard his name
mentioned at least twenty times. Out of the gusty, dripping blackness
came Mr. Badger's voice.

"By time!" crowed Josiah, "he was took down a few p-p-pup-pegs, wa'n't
he! My! how Eben did g-gi-gi-give it to him. He looked toler'ble white
under the gills when he riz up to heave out his s-s-sus-sassy talk. And
foolish, too. I cal'late I won't be the only town fuf-fuf-fool from now
on. He! he!"

The noises died away in the distance. Within the chapel the tramp
of heavy boots sounded as the lights were blown out, one by one. The
minister frowned, sighed, and turned homeward. It is not pleasant to be
called a fool, even by a recognized member of the fraternity.

He had taken but a few steps when there was a rustle in the wet grass
behind him.

"Mr. Ellery," whispered a voice, "Mr. Ellery, may I speak to you just a
moment?"

He wheeled in surprise.

"Why! why, Miss Van Horne!" he exclaimed. "Is it you?"

"Mr. Ellery," she began, speaking hurriedly and in a low voice, "I--I
felt that I must say a word to you before--"

She paused and glanced back at the chapel. Ezekiel Bassett, the janitor,
having extinguished the last lamp, had emerged from the door and was
locking up. In another moment he clumped past them in the middle of the
road, the circle of light from his lantern just missing them as they
stood in the grass at the side under the hornbeam and blackberry bushes.
He was alone; Sukey B. had gone on before, other and younger masculine
escort having been providentially provided.

Mr. Bassett was out of hearing before Grace finished her sentence. The
minister was silent, waiting and wondering.

"I felt," she said, "that I must see you and--explain. I am SO sorry you
came here to-night. Oh, I wish you hadn't. What made you do it?"

"I came," began Ellery, somewhat stiffly, "because I--well, because I
thought it might be a good thing to do. As I said--"

"Yes, I know. But it wasn't. It was so--so--"

"So foolish. Thank you, I'm aware of it. I've heard myself called a
fool already since I left your church. Not that I needed to hear it. I
realize the fact."

There was a bitterness in his tone, unmistakable. And a little laugh
from his companion did not tend to soothe his feelings.

"Thank you," he said. "Perhaps it is funny. I did not find it so. Good
evening."

This was priggish, but it must be borne in mind that John Ellery was
very, very fresh from the theological school, where young divines are
taught to take themselves seriously. He was ashamed of himself as soon
as he said it, which proved that his case was not beyond hope.

The girl detained him as he was turning away.

"I wasn't laughing at that," she said. "I know who called you that--that
name. It was Josiah Badger, and he really is one, you know. I was
thinking of his testimony in meeting and how he called Ky--Abishai--a
pepper shaker. That was ridiculous enough, but it reminded me of
something else about Mr. Pepper, and I HAD to laugh. It wasn't at you,
truly."

So the minister begged her pardon; also he remained where he was, and
heard the drops from the tree patter hollow on his hat.

"I came after you," went on Grace rapidly and with nervous haste,
"because I felt that you ought not to misjudge my uncle for what he said
to-night. He wouldn't have hurt your feelings for the world. He is a
good man and does good to everybody. If you only knew the good he does
do, you wouldn't--you wouldn't DARE think hardly of him."

She stamped her foot in the wet grass as she said it. She was evidently
in earnest. But Ellery was not in the mood to be greatly impressed
by Eben Hammond's charity or innate goodness. The old tavern keeper's
references to himself were too fresh in his mind. "False prophet" and
"worker of iniquity!"

"I'm not judging your uncle," he declared. "It seemed to me that the
boot was on the other leg."

"I know, but you do judge him, and you mustn't. You see, he thought
you had come to make fun of him--and us. Some of the Regular people do,
people who aren't fit to tie his shoes. And so he spoke against you.
He'll be sorry when he thinks it over. That's what I came to tell you. I
ask your pardon for--for him."

"Why--why, that's all right. I think I understood--"

"I'm not asking it because he's a Come-Outer and you're a Regular
minister. He isn't ashamed of his religion. Neither am I. I'm a
Come-Outer, too."

"Yes. I--I supposed you were."

"Yes, I am. There, good night, Mr. Ellery. All I ask is that you don't
think too hardly of uncle. He didn't mean it."

She turned away now, and it was the minister who detained her.

"I've been thinking," he said slowly, for in his present state of mind
it was a hard thing to say, "that perhaps I ought to apologize, too.
I'm afraid I did disturb your service and I'm sorry. I meant well,
but--What's that? Rain?"

There was no doubt about it; it was rain and plenty of it. It came in
a swooping downpour that beat upon the trees and bushes and roared upon
the roof of the chapel. The minister hurriedly raised his umbrella.

"Here!" he cried, "let me--Miss Van Horne! Where are you?"

The answer came from a short distance down the "Turn-off."

"Good night," called the girl. "I must run."

Evidently, she WAS running. Therefore the young man ran after her. He
caught up with her in a moment, in spite of some stumbles over the rough
road.

"Here!" he commanded, "you must take the umbrella. Really, you must. You
haven't one and you'll be wet through."

She pushed the umbrella aside.

"No, no," she answered. "I don't need it; I'm used to wet weather; truly
I am. And I don't care for this hat; it's an old one. You have a long
way to go and I haven't. Please, Mr. Ellery, I can't take it."

"Very well," was the sternly self-sacrificing reply, "then I shall
certainly go with you."

"But I don't wish you to."

"I can't help that. I'm not going to let you go unprotected through
this flood. Especially as you might have been at home before this if you
hadn't stopped to speak with me."

"But you mustn't."

"I shall."

Here was the irresistible force and the immovable object. They stood
stock still in the middle of the road, while the rain drops jumped as
they struck the umbrella top. The immovable object, being feminine,
voiced the unexpected.

"All right," she said; "then I suppose I shall have to take it."

"What?"

"The umbrella. I'm sorry, and you'll get dreadfully wet, but it's your
own fault."

He could feel her hand near his own on the handle. He did not relinquish
his grasp.

"No," he said. "I think, on the whole, that that is unreasonable. I
SHOULD get wet and, though I don't mind it when it is necessary, I--"

"Well?" rather sharply, "what are you going to do?"

"Go with you as far as your gate. I'm sorry, if my company is
distasteful, but--"

He did not finish the sentence, thinking, it may be, that she might
finish it for him. But she was silent, merely removing her hand from the
handle. She took a step forward; he followed, holding the umbrella above
her head. They plashed on, without speaking, through the rapidly forming
puddles.

Presently she stumbled and he caught her arm to prevent her falling. To
his surprise he felt that arm shake in his grasp.

"Why, Miss Van Horne!" he exclaimed in great concern, "are you crying?
I beg your pardon. Of course I wouldn't think of going another step with
you. I didn't mean to trouble you. I only--If you will please take this
umbrella--"

Again he tried to transfer the umbrella and again she pushed it away.

"I--I'm not crying," she gasped; "but--oh, dear! this is SO funny!"

Mr. Ellery gazed blankly at her through the rain-streaked dark. This was
the most astonishing young person he had met in his twenty-three years
of worldly experience.

"Funny!" he repeated. "Well, perhaps it is. Our ideas of fun seem to
differ. I--"

"Oh, but it IS so funny. You don't understand. What do you think your
congregation would say if they knew you had been to a Come-Outers'
meeting and then insisted on seeing a Come-Outer girl home?"

John Ellery swallowed hard. A vision of Captain Elkanah Daniels and the
stately Miss Annabel rose before his mind's eye. He hadn't thought of
his congregation in connection with this impromptu rescue of a damsel in
distress.

"Ha, ha!" he laughed mournfully. "I guess it is rather funny, after
all."

"It certainly is. Now will you leave me and go back to your parsonage?"

"Not unless you take the umbrella."

"Very well. It is a beautiful evening for a walk, don't you think so?
Mr. Ellery, I'm afraid we shan't have you with us in Trumet very long."

"Why not?"

"Oh, because you're so very, very original. Are your sermons that way,
too? Captain Elkanah doesn't like his ministers to be too original."

The minister set his teeth. At that moment he felt an intense desire
to bid the Daniels family mind their own business. Then another thought
struck him.

"Possibly your Uncle Eben might be somewhat--er--surprised if he
knew you were with me. Perhaps he might have something to say on the
subject."

"I guess he would. We shall know very soon. I ran away and left him with
Mrs. Poundberry, our housekeeper. He doesn't know where I am. I wonder
he hasn't turned back to look for me before this. We shall probably meet
him at any moment."

She seemed to enjoy the prospect of the meeting. Ellery wondered what on
earth he should say to Captain Hammond--that is, provided he was allowed
to say anything.

Suddenly a heavier gust of rain and wind beat upon them. The minister
struggled with the umbrella. The gust passed and with it the fog. An
instant before it had been all about them, shutting them within inky
walls. Now it was not. Through the rain he could see the shadowy
silhouettes of bushes at the road side. Fifty yards away the lighted
windows of the Hammond tavern gleamed yellow. Farther on, over a ragged,
moving fringe of grass and weeds, was a black flat expanse--the bay. And
a little way out upon that expanse twinkled the lights of a vessel. A
chain rattled. Voices shouting exultingly came to their ears.

"Why!" exclaimed Grace in excited wonder, "it's the packet! She was due
this morning, but we didn't expect her in till to-morrow. How did she
find her way in the fog? I must tell uncle."

She started to run toward the house. The minister would have followed
with the umbrella, but she stopped him.

"No, Mr. Ellery," she urged earnestly. "No, please don't. I'm all right
now. Thank you. Good night."

A few steps farther on she turned.

"I hope Cap'n Elkanah won't know," she whispered, the laugh returning to
her voice. "Good night."

Ellery stood still in the rain and watched her. He saw her pass the
lighted windows and open a door. Into the yellow radiance she flashed
and disappeared. A minute more and the bulky form of Eben Hammond,
lantern in hand, a sou'wester on his head and his shoulders working
themselves into an oilskin coat, burst out of the door and hurriedly
limped down toward the shore. On the threshold, framed in light, stood
his ward, gazing after him. And the minister gazed at her.

From the bay came the sound of oars in row-locks. A boat was approaching
the wharf. And suddenly from the boat came a hail.

"Halloo! Ahoy, dad! Is that you?"

There was an answering shout from the wharf; a shout of joy. Then
a rattle of oars and a clamor of talk. And Grace still stood in the
doorway, waiting.

The lantern bobbed up the slope. As it reached the tavern gateway, the
minister saw that it was now carried by a tall, active man, who walked
with a seaman's stride and roll. Captain Eben was close beside him,
talking excitedly.

They entered the yard.

"Grace! Grace!" screamed Captain Eben. "Gracie, girl, look who's come!
Look!"

The tall man ran forward.

"Hi, Grace!" he cried in a deep, hearty voice. "Is that you? Ain't you
got a word for your old messmate?"

The girl stepped out into the rain.

"Why! why, NAT!" she cried.

The big man picked her up bodily in his arms and carried her into the
house. Captain Eben followed and the door closed.

John Ellery picked his way homeward through the puddles and the pouring
rain.

He found Keziah in the sitting room, seated by the table, evidently
writing a letter. She looked tired and grave--for her.

"Well!" she exclaimed as he entered. "I guess you're soppin' now, sartin
sure. There's a light in your room. Take off your wet things and throw
'em down to me, and I'll dry 'em in the kitchen. Better leave your boots
here now and stand that umbrella in the sink. The kettle's on the stove;
you'd better have somethin' hot--ginger tea or somethin'. I told you not
to go out such a night as this. Where in the world have you been?"

The minister said he would tell her all about it in the morning. Just
now he thought he had better go up and take off his wet clothes. He
declined the ginger tea, and, after removing his boots, went upstairs to
his room.

Keziah dipped her pen in the ink and went on with her letter.

"I inclose ten dollars," she wrote. "It is all I can send you now. More
than I ought to afford. Goodness knows why I send anything. You don't
deserve it. But while I live and you do I can't--"

The minister called from the landing.

"Here is my coat," he said. "The cuffs and lower part of the sleeves are
pretty wet. By the way, the packet came in to-night. They didn't expect
her so soon on account of the fog. There was a passenger aboard whom I
think must be that Nathaniel Hammond you told me of."

Keziah's pen stopped. The wet coat struck the hall floor with a soft
thump. The tick of the clock sounded loud in the room. A sheet of
wind-driven rain lashed the windows.

"Did you hear?" called the minister. "I said that Nathaniel Hammond,
Captain Eben's son, came on the packet. I didn't meet him, but I'm sure
it was he. Er--Mrs. Coffin, are you there? Do you hear me?"

The housekeeper laid the pen down beside the unfinished letter.

"Yes," she said, "I hear you. Good night."

For minutes she sat there, leaning back in her chair and staring at the
wall. Then she rose, went into the hall, picked up the coat, and took it
out into the kitchen, where she hung it on the clotheshorse by the cook
stove. After a while she returned to the table and took up the pen. Her
face in the lamplight looked more tired and grave than ever.

It was a long time before John Ellery fell asleep. He had much to think
of--of the morrow, of the talk his rash visit to the chapel would cause,
of the explanation he must make to Captain Elkanah and the rest. But the
picture that was before his closed eyes as he lay there was neither of
Captain Elkanah nor the parish committee; it was that of a girl, with
dark hair and a slim, graceful figure, standing in a lighted doorway and
peering out into the rain.


CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH OLD FRIENDS MEET


When Ellery came down to breakfast the rain was over, the wind had
gone down, and the morning sunshine was pouring in at the dining-room
windows. Outside the lilacs were in bud, the bluebirds were singing, and
there was a sniff of real spring in the air. The storm was at an end and
yet the young minister was conscious of a troublesome feeling that, for
him, it was just beginning.

However, he had determined while dressing to make a clean breast of it
to his housekeeper--a nominally clean breast, that is. There were some
things he would not tell her, some that he would not speak of to anyone,
the picture in the doorway for instance. True, it was only a picture
and of no moment, but it was pleasant to remember. One of the very few
pleasant things connected with the previous evening.

So, as they sat opposite each other at the table, he began his
confession. The muffins scorched in the oven and the coffeepot boiled
over as he told his story, for Keziah was too much interested to think
of trifles. Interested and astounded, for, since Come-Outers had been
Come-Outers and the split in the society took place, no Regular minister
had crossed the threshold of a seceder's dwelling, much less attended
their services and walked home with a member of their congregation. She
knew what this amazing procedure was likely to mean, if her parson did
not.

"Well!" she exclaimed when the recital was finished. "Well!"

"I--I'm afraid I was too hasty," observed Mr. Ellery thoughtfully.
"Perhaps it would have been wiser not to have done it."

"Perhaps 'twould. Yes, I wouldn't wonder a mite."

"It will be talked about some, I suppose. Don't you think so?"

"Some, yes."

"I'm afraid some of my own people may think it queer."

"Queer! Say, Mr. Ellery, you remind me of a half-breed Portugee
feller--half Portugee and a half Indian--that went to sea with my
father, back in the old days. He hardly ever spoke a word, mainly
grunted and made signs. One day he and another fo'mast hand went aloft
in a calm to do somethin' to the tops'l. The half-breed--they called him
Billy Peter and he always called himself that--was out on the end of
the yard, with his foot on the rope underneath, I forget the name of it,
when the tarred twine he had for a shoe string caught. Tryin' to get
it loose it broke sudden, his shoe pulled off, he lost his balance and
fell. He grabbed at the yard, saved himself for a second, fell again,
grabbed the next yard, then a rope and so on down, grabbin' and pullin'
all the way. First his shoe hit the deck, then his sheath knife, then
a piece of rope, and finally himself, landin' right on top of the Irish
cook who was goin' aft from the galley with father's dinner.

"There was the greatest racket you ever heard, pans fallin', dishes
smashin', men yellin', and the cook swearin'. Father run on deck,
thinkin' the ship was dismasted. He found the cook and Billy Peter
sittin' in the middle of the mess, lookin' at each other. Neither was
hurt a mite. The mates and the crew, part of 'em, was standin' starin'
at the pair.

"'For Heaven sakes!' says father; 'what happened?'

"The half-breed looked up and rubbed his head. 'Ugh!' says he, 'Billy
Peter bust his shoe string.'

"The cook, his name was O'Neill, looked at him disgusted. 'Well,
begorra!' says he, 'Billy Peter, you don't exaggerate none, do ye! It's
a good thing BOTH of 'em didn't bust or we'd have foundered.'

"You remind me of Billy Peter, Mr. Ellery, you don't exaggerate. Queer?
Some folks think your goin' to that meetin' last night QUEER? At this
moment one half of Trumet is talkin' about it and runnin' out to tell
the other half. I guess I'd better hurry up with this breakfast. We're
goin' to have callers."

Strange to say, however, this prophecy of early morning visitors did
not prove true. Nine o'clock, then ten, and no visitor came to the
parsonage. Mrs. Coffin affirmed that she did not understand it. Where
was Didama? Where Lavinia Pepper? Had the "Trumet Daily Advertiser"
suspended publication?

At half past ten the gate slammed. Keziah peered from the window.

"Humph!" she ejaculated. "Here comes Elkanah and he's got storm signals
set, by the looks. He's comin' after you, Mr. Ellery."

"Very well," was the calm reply; "let him come."

"What are you goin' to say to him?"

"Nothing, except that I did what I considered right at the time. Show
him into the study, Mrs. Coffin, please."

Captain Daniels marched to the dining-room door, his gold-headed cane
marking time like a drumbeat. He nodded curtly to Keziah, who answered
the knock, and stepped across the threshold.

"Hum--ha!" he barked. "Is the minister--hum--ha! is Mr. Ellery in?"

"Yes, he's in."

"Tell him I want to see him."

The housekeeper announced the visitor.

"He's as sour as a skimmin' of last week's milk," she whispered. "Don't
be afraid of him, though."

"Oh, I'm not. Show him in."

"All right. Say, Mr. Ellery, it's none of my business, but I wouldn't
say anything about your seein' Grace home. That's none of HIS business,
either, or anybody else's."

The head of the parish committee stalked into the study and the
door closed behind him. A rumble of voices in animated conversation
succeeded.

Mrs. Coffin went out into the kitchen and resumed her business of making
a dried-apple pie. There was a hot fire in the stove and she opened the
back door to let in the fresh air. She worked briskly, rolling out the
dough, filling the deep dish, and pinking the edges of the upper crust
with a fork. She was thinking as she worked, but not of the minister or
his visitor.

She put the pie in the oven and set the damper. And, as she knelt by the
stove, something struck her lightly on the back of the neck. She looked
up and about her, but there was no one in sight. Then she picked up the
object which had struck her. It was a cranberry, withered and softened
by the winter frosts.

She looked at the cranberry, then at the open door, and her eyes
twinkled. Running quickly to the threshold she peered out. The back yard
was, apparently, empty, save for a few hens belonging to near neighbors,
and these had stopped scratching for a living and were huddled near the
fence.

"Hum!" she mused. "You rascal! Eddie Snow, if it's you, I'll be after
you in a minute. Just because you're big enough to quit school and drive
store wagon is no reason why I can't--Hey? Oh!"

She was looking down below the door, which opened outward and was swung
partly back on its hinges. From under the door projected a boot, a man's
boot and one of ample size.

Keziah's cheeks, already red from the heat of the stove, reddened still
more. Her lips twitched and her eyes sparkled.

"Hum!" she said again. "They say you can tell the Old Scratch by his
footprints, even if you can't smell the sulphur. Anyhow, you can tell
a Hammond by the size of his boots. Come out from behind that door this
minute. Ain't you ashamed of yourself?"

The owner of the boot stepped forth from behind the door and seized her
by both hands.

"Halloo, Keziah!" he cried joyfully. "My, but it's good to see you."

"Halloo, Nat!" said Keziah heartily. "It's kind of good to see you,
too."

The rest of him was in keeping with his boots. He was big and
broad-shouldered and bearded. His face, above the beard, was tanned to a
deep reddish brown, and the corners of his eyes were marked with dozens
of tiny wrinkles. He was dressed in blue cloth and wore a wide-brimmed,
soft felt hat. He entered the kitchen and tossed the hat into a corner.

"Well!" he exclaimed. "Why don't you act surprised to see a feller? Here
I've been cruisin' from the Horn to Barnegat and back again, and you
act as if I'd just dropped in to fetch the cup of molasses I borrowed
yesterday. What do you mean by it?"

"Oh, I heard you'd made port."

"Did, hey? That's Trumet, sure pop. You ain't the only one. I sneaked
off acrost lots so's to dodge the gang of neighbors that I knew would
be sailin' into our yard, the whole fleet loaded to the gunwale with
questions. Wanted to see you first, Keziah."

"Yes. So, instead of callin' like a Christian, you crept up the back way
and threw cranberries at me. Ain't you ashamed of yourself?"

"Not a mite." He took a handful of the frostbitten berries from his
coat pocket and inspected them lovingly. "Ain't they fine?" he asked,
crunching two or three between his teeth. "I picked 'em up as I came
along. I tell you, that's the home taste, all right."

"Don't eat those frozen things. They'll give you your never-get-over."

"What? Cape Cod cranberries! Never in the world. I'd rather eat sand
down here than the finest mug my steward can cook. Tell you what I'll
do, though; I'll swear off on the cranberries if you'll give me a
four-inch slice of that pie I saw you put in the oven. Dried-apple, I'll
bet my sou'wester. Think you might ask a feller to sit down. Ain't you
glad to see me?"

Mrs. Coffin pulled forward one of the kitchen chairs. He seated himself
on it and it groaned under his weight.

"Whew!" he whistled. "Never made to stand rough weather, was it? Well,
AIN'T you glad?"

Keziah looked at him gravely.

"You know I'm glad, Nat," she said.

"So? I hoped you would be, but I did want to hear you say it. Now you
come to anchor yourself and let's have a talk. I've been countin' on it
ever since we set tops'ls off Surinam."

The housekeeper took the other chair.

"How are you--" she began. He stopped her.

"S-shh!" he interrupted. "Don't say anything for a minute. Let me look
at you. Just as clean and wholesome and good-lookin' as ever. They don't
make girls like that anywhere else but down on this old sand bar. Not a
day older, by the jumpin'--"

She held up her hand.

"Hush, Nat," she protested; "don't talk foolish. Girl? Not a day older?
Why, if feelin's count for anything, I'm as old as Methusaleh. Haven't I
had enough to make me old?"

He was grave immediately.

"I beg your pardon, Keziah," he said. "I'm a dough head, that's a fact.
I hadn't forgot about Sol, but I was so glad to be home again and to see
dad and Grace and the old town and you that everything else flew out of
my mind. Poor Sol! I liked him."

"He liked you, too. No wonder, considerin' what you did to--"

"Belay! Never mind that. Poor chap! Well, he's rid of his sufferin's at
last. Tell me about it, if you can without bringin' all the trouble back
too plain."

So she told him of her brother's sickness and death, of having to give
up the old home, and, finally, of her acceptance of the housekeeper's
position. He listened, at first with sympathy and then with suppressed
indignation.

"By the jumpin' Moses!" he exclaimed. "And Elkanah was goin' to turn you
out of house and home. The mean, pompous old--"

"Hush! hush! he's in there with Mr. Ellery."

"Who? Elkanah?"

"Yes; they're in the study."

"By the jumpin'--Let me talk to him for a few minutes. I'LL tell him
what's good for his health. You just listen."

He rose from the chair, but she made him sit down again.

"No, no," she protested. "He wasn't to blame. He had to have his rent
and I didn't feel that I could afford to keep up a whole house, just for
myself. And, besides, I ought to be thankful to him, I suppose. He got
me this place."

"He did?"

"Yes, he did. I rather guess Zeb Mayo or somebody may have suggested it
to him first, but--"

"Humph! I rather guess so, too."

"Well, you can't always tell. Sometimes when you really get inside of a
person you find a generous streak that--"

"Not in a Daniels. Anybody that got inside of Elkanah would find nothin'
but Elkanah there, and 'twould be crowded at that. So he's talkin' to
the new parson, hey? Bossin' him, too, I'll bet."

"I ain't so sure. Mr. Ellery's young, but he's got a mind of his own."

Captain Hammond chuckled and slapped his knee.

"Ho, ho!" he laughed. "I've been hearin' somethin' about that mind. Went
to the chapel last night, I understand, and he and dad had a set-to. Oh,
I heard about it! Wish I might have been there."

"How does your father act about it?"

"'Bout the way a red-hot stove acts when you spill water on it; every
time he thinks of the minister he sizzles. Ho, ho! I do wish I could
have been there."

"What does Grace say?"

"Oh, she doesn't say much. I wouldn't wonder if she felt the way I do,
though we both keep quiet. I'll tell you, between ourselves and the
ship's pump, that I sort of glory in the young chap's spunk."

"Good! So do I. I like him."

"See here, Keziah! I'm gettin' frightened. You ain't settin' your cap to
be a parson's wife, are you? Because--"

"Don't be silly. I might adopt him, but that's all, I guess."

Her friend leaned forward.

"Keziah," he said earnestly, "there's no sense in your slavin' yourself
to death here. I can think of a good deal pleasanter berth than that.
Pleasanter for me, anyhow, and I'd do my best to make it pleasant for
you. You've only got to say the word and--No? Well, then all I can do is
hope through another voyage."

"Please don't, Nat. You know."

"No, I don't know."

"Well, perhaps you don't. But I know. I like you, Nat. I count on you as
the straightest, truest friend I've got; and I want to keep on countin'
on you just that way. Mayn't I?"

"'Course you can, Keziah. But--"

"Then don't say another word, please."

He sighed and looked out at the open door. The kitchen clock ticked loud
in the silence.

"All right," he said at last. "All right, but I'm goin' to keep on
hopin'."

"You mustn't, Nat."

"Keziah, when you set your foot down you're pretty stubborn; but I've
got somethin' of a foot myself. You remember you said so a few minutes
ago. Hi, hum! Well, speakin' of dad reminds me that I'm kind of worried
about him."

"You are? Why? Isn't he well?"

"Pretty well, but he ain't strong, and he gets too excited over things
like last night's foolishness. Grace tells me that the doctor says he
must be careful or he'll drop off sudden some of these days. He had a
shock five or six years ago, a little one, and I've been anxious about
him ever since. I've got to go to New York off and on for the next
month; after that I hope to be home for a spell and I can keep an eye on
him. Keziah, if you'll listen I'll whisper somethin' to you--religion's
a good thing and so's a mustard plaster, but both of 'em can be put on
too strong. Dad is just a little mite crazy on Come-Outers, I'm afraid."

"Oh, no, I guess not! You mustn't worry. How did Grace look to you?"

"Like the harbor light on a stormy night. She's a brick, that girl, and
gets prettier every minute. Wonder to me some of the young chaps down
here don't carry her off by main strength. She'll make somebody a good
wife."

"Um-hm. Have--have you ever thought of her that way yourself?"

"Keziah!"

"Well, don't get mad. I think a lot of Grace, and I don't know anyone
I'd rather see you marry."

"I do. Keziah, that's enough of that. Are you and dad in partnership to
get me spliced and out of the way? He was at me this mornin' along the
same line. Don't say anything like that again, even in fun. YOU know
why."

"All right, all right. Now tell me about yourself. Have you had a good
voyage? How do you like your owners? How did Zach Foster ever get the
packet in through yesterday's fog?"

"Voyage was all right. Some rugged weather on the trip out, but homeward
bound we slid along like a slush bucket on a greased plank. Owners
are all right. Good people as ever I sailed for. As for Zach and the
packet--Ho, ho!"

He laughed, rocking back and forth on the chair, which creaked in
sympathy.

"What's the joke?" demanded the housekeeper. "Don't do that! That chair
wasn't made for elephants to use."

"Hey? 'Tis pretty weak in the knees, ain't it? Dad would say 'twas a
piece with the creed of those that owned it. I--What's that? Somebody's
comin'. I'm goin' to clear out. I don't want to be put through my
catechism yet a while."

"No, you mustn't go. I want you to meet Mr. Ellery. You sit out on
the wash bench by the back door till I get rid of whoever 'tis that's
comin'. Scoot!"

Nat "scooted," stopping to snatch up his hat as he ran. Keziah went into
the dining room and admitted Captain Zebedee Mayo, who was panting from
the exertion of his walk.

"Whew!" puffed Captain Zeb, mopping his forehead. "How be you, Keziah?
What? You ain't all alone! Thought you'd have a cabin full of gab
machines by this time. Have they been and gone?"

"No, they haven't been. I--My land, my pie!"

She rushed into the kitchen and snatched the pastry from the oven. Her
new caller followed her.

"So they ain't been, hey?" he said. "That's queer."

"Elkanah's here. He's in there with the minister now."

"He is? Givin' the young feller Hail Columby, I cal'late. Well, now,
he shan't. He, he! When they told me how the minister passed old
hop-and-go-fetch-it what was due him at the chapel last night I riz up
and hoorayed till my wife shut the windows. She said the neighbors all
thought I was loony, anyhow, and I needn't prove it to 'em. He, he! But
Elkanah ain't got any funny bone. He's as solemn as a stuffed owl, and
he'll--Well, I'm goin' to put MY oar in. I'm parish committee, too, I
cal'late, and I've got somethin' to say, even if I wa'n't christened
Daniels. Here goes!"

He headed for the study, but before he crossed the threshold of the
kitchen Ellery and his visitor came out into the dining room. Captain
Elkanah's face was flushed, and he fidgeted. The minister looked
determined but calm.

"Ahoy there, Elkanah!" hailed Zebedee cheerfully. "'Mornin', Mr. Ellery.
Been havin' officers' counsel, have you?"

"Good morning, Captain Mayo," said the minister.

"'Mornin', Zebedee," grunted Elkanah. "I have--hum--ha!--been
discussing the regrettable affair of last night with Mr. Ellery. I have
tried--hum--ha! to show him that respectable people of our society don't
associate with Come-Outers, and that for a Regular minister to go to
their meetings is something neither the congregation nor the parish
committee approves of. No--er--hum--ha! no!"

"And I explained to Captain Daniels," observed the minister, "that I
went there for what seemed to me good reasons, and, as they did seem to
me good at the time, I'm not ashamed of having gone. It was an honest
mistake on my part and I may make more."

"But the society--" began Elkanah. Captain Zeb interrupted him.

"Don't worry about the society, Mr. Ellery," he said with emphasis. "Nor
about the parish committee, either. Great fishhooks! the most of us are
tickled to death over what you said to Eben Hammond. We think it's a
mighty good joke. YOU didn't know, of course, and what you did was done
innocent. He! he! he! Did you lay him out, hey?"

"Zebedee," began Captain Daniels, "I must say I can't see anything to
laugh at."

"You never could, Elkanah. I remember that time when you and me and some
of the fellers home from sea went out sailin' and the boom knocked you
overboard with your Sunday clothes on. Lordy, how the rest of us did
holler! but you never cracked a smile. If you'd seen yourself when we
hauled you in! whiskers runnin' salt water; beaver hat lookin' like a
drownded kitten--"

"There! There! Never mind that. I think you'll find a good many of the
society feel as I do, shocked and--hum--ha!--sorry. I'm surprised they
haven't been here to say so."

"I expected them," remarked the minister.

"So did I," chimed in Captain Zeb. "But I cal'late to know why they
ain't been. They're all too busy crowin' over the way Nat Hammond
fetched the packet home last night. WHAT? You ain't heard? Great
fishhooks! it's the best thing ever--"

"I've heard about it," snapped Elkanah impatiently. "Mr. Ellery, I'm
glad you realize that your action was a mistake and I will take pains to
have that immejitly made plain to--"

"YOU ain't heard, Keziah, have you?" broke in Zebedee. "Nor you, Mr.
Ellery? Well, I must tell you. Here's where I gain a lap on Didama
Rogers. Seems the Deborah S.--that's the packet's name, Mr. Ellery--she
hauled out of Boston night afore last on the ebb, with a fair wind and
sky clear as a bell. But they hadn't much more'n got outside of Minot's
'fore the fog shut down, thicker'n gruel for a sick rich man. The wind
held till 'long toward mornin'; then she flattened to a dead calm. 'Bije
Perry, the mate, he spun the yarn to me, and he said 'twas thick and
flat as ever he see and kept gettin' no better fast.

"They drifted along till noon time and then they was somewheres out in
the bay, but that's about all you could say. Zach, he was stewin' and
sputterin' like a pair of fried eels, and Lafayette Gage and Emulous
Peters--they're Denboro folks, Mr. Ellery, and about sixteen p'ints
t'other side of no account--they was the only passengers aboard except
Nat Hammond, and they put in their time playin' high low jack in the
cabin. The lookout was for'ard tootin' a tin horn and his bellerin'
was the most excitin' thing goin' on. After dinner--corned beef and
cabbage--trust Zach for that, though it's next door to cannibalism to
put cabbage in HIS mouth--after dinner all hands was on deck when Nat
says: 'Hush!' he says. 'Don't I hear somethin'?'

"They listened, and then they all heard it--all 'cept Zach, who's deef
in his larboard ear.

"'Stand by!' roars Nat. 'It's a squall, dead astern and comin' abilin'!
I'll take her, 'Bije. You look out for them tops'ls.'

"So Nat grabs the wheel and 'Bije tears for'ard and sends the two
fo'mast hands aloft on the jump. Zach was skipper, but all he done was
race around and holler and trip over his own feet. Oh, he's a prize
sailor, he is! Don't talk to me about them Fosters! I--"

"Nobody is talkin' about 'em but you, Zeb," observed Keziah drily. "Go
on. How about the squall?"

"It hit 'em 'fore they got even one tops'l clewed down. That one, the
foretops'l 'twas, split to rags. The main tops'l was set, and when the
squall struck, the rotten old topmast went by the board 'Kerrash-o!'
'Course splinters flew like all possessed, and one of 'em, about a foot
long, sailed past Nat's head, where he stood heavin' his whole weight on
the wheel, and lit right on the binnacle, smashin' it to matches.

"They say Nat never paid the least attention, no more'n if the chunk of
wood had been a June bug buzzin' past. He just held that wheel hard down
and that saved the packet. She come around and put her nose dead in
the wind just in time. As 'twas, 'Bije says there was a second when the
water by her lee rail looked right underneath him as he hung onto the
deck with finger nails and teeth.

"Well, there they was, afloat, but with their upper riggin' gone and
the compass smashed flat. A howlin' no'thwester blowin' and fog thick as
ever. Zach was a whimperin', fidgetin' old woman, Lafayette and Emulous
was prayin' in the scuppers--and that ain't an exercise they're used to,
neither--and even 'Bije was mighty shook up and worried--he says he was
himself. But Nat Hammond was as cool and refreshin' as the bottom of my
well up home.

"'Better clear away that mess aloft, hadn't you?' he says to the
skipper.

"Zach said he guessed so; he wa'n't sure of nothin'. However, they
cleared it away, and incidentally 'Bije yanked the prayer meetin' out
of the scuppers and set 'em to work. Then Nat suggests gettin' the spare
compass and, lo and behold you! there wa'n't any. Compasses cost money
and money's made to keep, so Zach thinks.

"So there they was. Wind was fair, or ought to be, but 'twas blowin'
hard and so thick you couldn't hardly see the jib boom. Zach he wanted
to anchor, then he didn't, then he did, and so on. Nobody paid much
attention to him.

"'What'll we do, Nat?' says 'Bije. He knew who was the real seaman
aboard.

"'Keep her as she is, dead afore it, if you ask me, says Nat. 'Guess
we'll hit the broadside of the cape somewheres if this gale holds.'

"So they kept her as she was. And it got to be night and they knew
they'd ought to be 'most onto the edge of the flats off here, if their
reck'nin' was nigh right. They hove the lead and got five fathom. No
flats about that.

"Zach was for anchorin' again. 'What do you think, Nat?' asks 'Bije.

"'Anchor, of course, if you want to,' Nat says. 'You're runnin' this
craft. I'm only passenger.'

"'But what do you THINK?' whines Zach. 'Can't you tell us what you do
think?'

"'Well, if 'twas me, I wouldn't anchor till I had to. Prob'ly 'twill
fair off to-morrow, but if it shouldn't, we might have to lay out here
all day. Anyhow, we'd have to wait for a full tide.'

"'I'm afraid we're off the course,' says 'Bije, else we'd been acrost
the bar by this time.'

"'Well,' Nat tells him, 'if we are off the course and too far inshore,
we would have made the bar--the Bayport bar--if not the Trumet one. And
if we're off the course and too far out, we'd ought to have deeper water
than five fathom, hadn't we? 'Course I'm not sure, but--What's that,
lands-man?'

"'Three and a half, sir,' says the feller with the lead. That showed
they was edgin' in somewheres. Nat he sniffed, for all the world like a
dog catchin' a scent, so 'Bije declares.

"'I can smell home,' he says.

"Three fathom the lead give 'em, then two and a half, then a scant two.
They was drawin' six feet. Zach couldn't stand it.

"'I'm goin' to anchor,' he squeals, frantic. 'I believe we're plumb over
to Wellmouth and drivin' right onto Horsefoot Shoal.'

"'It's either that or the bar,' chimes in 'Bije. 'And whichever 'tis, we
can't anchor in the middle of it.'

"'But what'll we do?' shouts Zach. 'Can't nobody say somethin' to DO?'

"'Tell you I smell home,' says Nat, calm and chipper, 'and I'd know that
smell if I met it in Jericho. Ha! there she deepens again. That was the
bar and we're over it.'

"The wind had gone down to a stiff sailin' breeze, and the old Debby S.
slapped along afore it. Sometimes there was twelve foot under her keel
and sometimes eight or nine. Once 'twas only seven and a half. Zach and
'Bije both looked at each other, but Nat only smiled.

"'Oh, you can laugh!' hollers Zach. ''Tain't your vessel you're runnin'
into danger. YOU aint paid out your good money--'

"Nat never answered; but he stopped smilin'.

"And all to once the water deepened. Hammond swung her up into the wind.

"'NOW you can anchor,' says he.

"'And 'bout time, too, I guess,' says 'Bije. 'I cal'late the skipper's
right. This IS Horsefoot and we're right between the shoals. Yes, sir,
and I hear breakers. Lively there!'

"They hove over the mudhook and dropped the sails. Nat shook his head.

"'Breakers or not,' says he, 'I tell you I've smelt home for the last
half hour. Now, by the jumpin' Moses, I can TASTE it!'

"And inside of a couple of shakes come the rain. It poured for a while
and then the fog cleared. Right acrost their bows was Trumet, with the
town clock strikin' ten. Over the flat place between the hills they
could see the light on the ocean side. And they was anchored right
in the deep hole inside the breakwater, as sure as I'm knee high to a
marlin spike!

"'Bije just stared at Hammond with his mouth open.

"'Nat,' says he, 'you're a seaman, if I do say it. I thought I was a
pretty good bay pilot, but I can't steer a vessel without a compass
through a night as black as Pharaoh's Egypt, and in a thick fog besides,
and land her square on top of her moorin's. If my hat wa'n't sloshin'
around thirty mile astern, I snum if I wouldn't take it off to you this
minute!'

"'Nat,' stammers Zach, 'I must say I--'

"Nat snapped him shut like a tobacco box. 'You needn't,' says he. 'But
I'll say this to you, Zach Foster. When I undertake to handle a vessel
I handle her best I know how, and the fact that I don't own her makes no
difference to me. You just put that down somewheres so you won't forget
it.'

"And this mornin'," crowed Captain Zebedee, concluding his long yarn,
"after that, mind you, that lubber Zach Foster is around town tellin'
folks that his schooner had been over the course so often she COULDN'T
get lost. She found her way home herself. WHAT do you think of that?"

The two members of the parish committee left the parsonage soon after
Captain Mayo had finished his story. Elkanah had listened with growing
irritation and impatience. Zebedee lingered a moment behind his
companions.

"Don't you fret yourself about what happened last night, Mr. Ellery,"
he whispered. "It'll be all right. 'Course nobody'd want you to keep up
chummin' in with Come-Outers, but what you said to old Eben'll square
you this time. So long."

The minister shut the door behind his departing guests. Then he went out
into the kitchen, whither the housekeeper had preceded him. He found her
standing on the back step, looking across the fields. The wash bench was
untenanted.

"Hum!" mused Ellery thoughtfully, "that was a good story of Captain
Mayo's. This man Hammond must be a fine chap. I should like to meet
him."

Keziah still looked away over the fields. She did not wish her employer
to see her face--just then.

"I thought you would meet him," she said. "He was here a little while
ago and I asked him to wait. I guess Zeb's yarn was too much for him; he
doesn't like to be praised."

"So? Was he here? At the Regular parsonage? I'm surprised."

"He and I have known each other for a long while."

"Well, I'm sorry he's gone. I think I should like him."

Keziah turned from the door.

"I know you would," she said.


CHAPTER VII

IN WHICH CAPTAIN NAT PICKS UP A DERELICT


It is probable that John Ellery never fully realized the debt of
gratitude he owed to the fog and the squall and to Captain Nat Hammond.
Trumet, always hungry for a sensation, would have thoroughly enjoyed
arguing and quarreling over the minister's visit to Come-Outer meeting,
and, during the fracas, Keziah's parson might have been more or less
battered. But Captain Nat's brilliant piloting of the old packet was
a bit of seamanship which every man and woman on that foam-bordered
stretch of sand could understand and appreciate, and the minister's
indiscretion was all but forgotten in consequence. The "Daily
Advertisers" gloated over it, of course, and Captain Elkanah brought it
up at the meeting of the parish committee, but there Captain Zeb Mayo
championed the young man's course and proclaimed that, fur's he was
concerned, he was for Mr. Ellery more'n ever. "A young greenhorn
with the spunk to cruise single-handed right into the middle of the
Come-Outer school and give an old bull whale like Eben the gaff is the
man for my money," declared Zebedee. Most of his fellow-committee agreed
with him. "Not guilty, but don't do it again," was the general verdict.

As for the Come-Outers, they professed to believe that their leader had
much the best of the encounter, so they were satisfied. There was a
note of triumph and exultation in the "testimony" given on the following
Thursday night, and Captain Eben divided his own discourse between
thankfulness for his son's safe return and glorification at the
discomfiture of the false prophets. Practically, then, the result of
Ellery's peace overture was an increased bitterness in the feeling
between the two societies and a polishing of weapons on both sides.

Keziah watched anxiously for a hint concerning her parson's walk in the
rain with Grace, but she heard nothing, so congratulated herself that
the secret had been kept. Ellery did not again mention it to her, nor
she to him. A fortnight later he preached his great sermon on "The
Voyage of Life," and its reference to gales and calms and lee shores and
breakers made a hit. His popularity took a big jump.

He met Nat Hammond during that fortnight. The first meeting was
accompanied by unusual circumstances, which might have been serious, but
were actually only funny.

The tide at Trumet, on the bay side, goes out for a long way, leaving
uncovered a mile and a half of flats, bare and sandy, or carpeted with
seaweed. Between these flats are the channels, varying at low water from
two to four feet in depth, but deepening rapidly as the tide flows.

The flats fascinated the young minister, as they have many another
visitor to the Cape, before or since. On cloudy days they lowered with
a dull, leaden luster and the weed-grown portions were like the dark
squares on a checkerboard, while the deep water beyond the outer bar was
steely gray and angry. When the sun shone and the wind blew clear from
the northwest the whole expanse flashed into fire and color, sapphire
blue, emerald green, topaz yellow, dotted with white shells and ablaze
with diamond sparkles where the reflected light leaped from the flint
crystals of the wet, coarse sand.

The best time to visit the flats--tide serving, of course--is the early
morning at sunrise. Then there is an inspiration in the wide expanse, a
snap and tang and joy in the air. Ellery had made up his mind to take a
before-breakfast tramp to the outer bar and so arose at five, tucked a
borrowed pair of fisherman's boots beneath his arm, and, without saying
anything to his housekeeper, walked down the lawn behind the parsonage,
climbed the rail fence, and "cut across lots" to the pine grove on the
bluff. There he removed his shoes, put on the boots, wallowed through
the mealy yellow sand forming the slope of the bluff, and came out on
the white beach and the inner edge of the flats. Then he plashed on,
bound out to where the fish weirs stood, like webby fences, in the
distance.

It was a wonderful walk on a wonderful day. The minister enjoyed every
minute of it. Out here he could forget the petty trials of life, the
Didamas and Elkanahs. The wind blew his hat off and dropped it in a
shallow channel, but he splashed to the rescue and laughed aloud as he
fished it out. It was not much wetter than it had been that night of
the rain, when he tried to lend his umbrella and didn't succeed. This
reflection caused him to halt in his walk and look backward toward the
shore. The brown roof of the old tavern was blushing red in the first
rays of the sun.

A cart, drawn by a plodding horse and with a single individual on its
high seat, was moving out from behind the breakwater. Some fisherman
driving out his weir, probably.

The sand of the outer bar was dimpled and mottled like watered silk by
the action of the waves. It sloped gradually down to meet the miniature
breakers that rolled over and slid in ripples along its edge. Ellery
wandered up and down, picking up shells and sea clams, and peering
through the nets of the nearest weir at the "horsefoot crabs" and squid
and flounders imprisoned in the pound. There were a few bluefish there,
also, and a small school of mackerel.

The minister had been on the bar a considerable time before he began to
think of returning to the shore. He was hungry, but was enjoying himself
too well to mind. The flats were all his that morning. Only the cart and
its driver were in sight and they were half a mile off. He looked at
his watch, sighed, and reluctantly started to walk toward the town; he
mustn't keep Mrs. Coffin's breakfast waiting TOO long.

The first channel he came to was considerably deeper than when he forded
it on the way out. He noticed this, but only vaguely. The next, however,
was so deep that the water splashed in at the top of one of his boots.
He did notice that, because though he was not wearing his best clothes,
he was not anxious to wet his "other ones." The extent of his wardrobe
was in keeping with the size of his salary.

And the third channel was so wide and deep that he saw at once it could
not be forded, unless he was willing to plunge above his waist. This
was provoking. Now he realized that he had waited too long. The tide had
been flowing for almost an hour; it had flowed fast and, as he should
have remembered, having been told, the principal channels were eight
feet deep before the highest flats were covered.

He hurried along the edge, looking for a shallower place, but found
none. At last he reached the point of the flat he was on and saw, to
his dismay, that here was the deepest spot yet, a hole, scoured out by a
current like a mill race. Turning, he saw, creeping rapidly and steadily
together over the flat behind him, two lines of foam, one from each
channel. His retreat was cut off.

He was in for a wetting, that was sure. However, there was no help for
it, so he waded in. The water filled his boots there, it gurgled about
his hips, and beyond, as he could see, it seemed to grow deeper and
deeper. The current was surprisingly strong; he found it difficult to
keep his footing in the soft sand. It looked as though he must swim for
it, and to swim in that tide would be no joke.

Then, from behind him, came a hail. He turned and saw moving toward him
through the shallow water now covering the flat beyond the next channel,
the cart he had seen leave the shore by the packet wharf, and, later, on
the outer bar. The horse was jogging along, miniature geysers spouting
beneath its hoofs. The driver waved to him.

"Hold on, mate," he called. "Belay there. Stay where you are. I'll be
alongside in a shake. Git dap, January!"

Ellery waded back to meet this welcome arrival. The horse plunged into
the next channel, surged through it, and emerged dripping. The driver
pulled the animal into a walk.

"Say," he cried, "I'm cruisin' your way; better get aboard, hadn't you?
There's kind of a heavy dew this mornin'. Whoa, Bill!"

"Bill" or "January" stopped with apparent willingness. The driver leaned
down and extended a hand. The minister took it and was pulled up to the
seat.

"Whew!" he panted. "I'm much obliged to you. I guess you saved me from a
ducking, if nothing worse."

"Yes," was the answer, "I wouldn't wonder if I did. This ain't Saturday
night and 'twould be against Trumet principles to take a bath any other
time. All taut, are you? Good enough! then we'll get under way." He
flapped the reins and added, "G'long, Julius Caesar!"

The horse, a sturdy, sedate beast to whom all names seemed to be alike,
picked up his feet and pounded them down again. Showers of spray flew
about the heads of the pair on the seat.

"I ain't so sure about that duckin'," commented the rescuer. "Hum! I
guess likely we'll be out of soundin's if we tackle that sink hole you
was undertakin' to navigate. Let's try it a little further down."

Ellery looked his companion over.

"Well," he observed with a smile, "from what I've heard of you, Captain
Hammond, I rather guess you could navigate almost any water in this
locality and in all sorts of weather."

The driver turned in surprise.

"So?" he exclaimed. "You know me, do you? That's funny. I was tryin' to
locate you, but I ain't been able to. You ain't a Trumetite I'll bet on
that."

"Yes, I am."

"Tut! tut! tut! you don't tell me. Say, shipmate, you hurt my pride. I
did think there wa'n't a soul that ever trod sand in this village that I
couldn't name on sight, and give the port they hailed from and the names
of their owners. But you've got me on my beam ends. And yet you knew
ME."

"Of course I did. Everybody knows the man that brought the packet home."

Nat Hammond sniffed impatiently.

"Um--hm!" he grunted. "I cal'late everybody does, and knows a lot more
about that foolishness than I do myself. If ever a craft was steered
by guess and by godfrey, 'twas that old hooker of Zach's t'other night.
Well--Humph! here's another piece of pilotin' that bids fair to be a
mighty sight harder. Heave ahead, Hannibal! hope you've got your web
feet with you."

They had moved along the edge of the flat a short distance and now
turned into the channel. The horse was wading above its knees; soon the
water reached its belly and began to flow into the body of the cart.

"Pick up your feet, shipmate," commanded Nat. "You may get rheumatiz if
you don't. This'll be a treat for those sea clams back in that bucket
amidships. They'll think I've repented and have decided to turn 'em
loose again. They don't know how long I've been countin' on a sea-clam
pie. I'll fetch those clams ashore if I have to lug 'em with my teeth.
Steady, all hands! we're off the ways."

The cart was afloat. The horse, finding wading more difficult than
swimming, began to swim.

"Now I'm skipper again, sure enough," remarked Hammond. "Ain't gettin'
seasick, are you?"

The minister laughed.

"No," he said.

"Good! she keeps on a fairly even keel, considerin' her build. THERE
she strikes! That'll do, January; you needn't try for a record voyage.
Walkin's more in your line than playin' steamboat. We're over the worst
of it now. Say! you and I didn't head for port any too soon, did we?"

"No, I should say not. I ought to have known better than to wait out
there so long. I've been warned about this tide. I--"

"S-sh-sh! YOU ought to have known better! What do you think of me? Born
and brought up within sight and smell of this salt puddle and let myself
in for a scrape like this! But it was so mighty fine off there on the
bar I couldn't bear to leave it. I always said that goin' to sea on
land would be the ideal way, and now I've tried it. But you took bigger
chances than I did. Are you a good swimmer?"

"Not too good. I hardly know what might have happened if you hadn't--"

"S-sh-sh! that's all right. Always glad to pick up a derelict, may be a
chance for salvage, you know. Here's the last channel and it's an easy
one. There! now it's plain sailin' for dry ground."

The old horse, breathing heavily from his exertions, trotted over the
stretch of yet uncovered flats and soon mounted the slope of the beach.
The minister prepared to alight.

"Captain Hammond," he said, "you haven't asked me my name."

"No, I seldom do more'n once. There have been times when I'D just as
soon cruise without too big letters alongside my figurehead."

"Well, my name is Ellery."

"Hey? WHAT? Oh, ho! ho! ho!"

He rocked back and forth on the seat. The minister's feelings were a bit
hurt, though he tried not to show it.

"You mustn't mind my laughin'," explained Nat, still chuckling. "It
ain't at you. It's just because I was wonderin' what you'd look like if
I should meet you and now--Ho! ho! You see, Mr. Ellery, I've heard of
you, same as you said you'd heard of me."

Ellery smiled, but not too broadly.

"Yes," he admitted, "I imagined you had."

"Yes, seems to me dad mentioned your name once or twice. As much as
that, anyhow. Wonder what he'd say if he knew his son had been takin'
you for a mornin' ride?"

"Probably that it would have been much better to have left me where you
found me."

The captain's jolly face grew serious.

"No, no!" he protested. "Not so bad as that. Dad wouldn't drown anybody,
not even a Regular minister. He's a pretty square-built old craft, even
though his spiritual chart may be laid out different from yours--and
mine."

"From yours? Why, I supposed--"

"Yes, I know. Well, WHEN I go to meetin', I generally go to the chapel
to please father. But when it comes right down to a confession of faith,
I'm pretty broad in the beam. Maybe I'd be too broad even for you, Mr.
Ellery."

The minister, who had jumped to the ground, looked up.

"Captain Hammond," he said, "I'm very glad indeed that I met you. Not
alone because you helped me out of a bad scrape; I realize how bad it
might have been and that--"

"Shsh! shh! Nothin' at all. Don't be foolish."

"But I'm glad, too, because I've heard so many good things about you
that I was sure you must be worth knowing. I hope you won't believe I
went to your father's meeting with any--"

"No, no! Jumpin' Moses, man! I don't find fault with you for that. I
understand, I guess."

"Well, if you don't mind the fact that I am what I am, I'd like to shake
hands with you."

Nat reached down a big brown hand.

"Same here," he said. "Always glad to shake with a chap as well
recommended as you are. Yes, indeed, I mean it. You see, you've got a
friend that's a friend of mine, and when she guarantees a man to be A.
B., I'll ship him without any more questions."

"Well, then, good-by. I hope we shall meet again and often. And I
certainly thank you for--"

"That's all right. Maybe you'll fish ME out of the drink some day; you
never can tell. So long! Git dap, Gen'ral Scott!"

He drove off up the beach, but before he turned the corner of the
nearest dune he called back over his shoulder:

"Say, Mr. Ellery, if you think of it you might give my regards
to--to--er--the lady that's keepin' house for you."

Breakfast had waited nearly an hour when the minister reached home.
Keziah, also, was waiting and evidently much relieved at his safe
arrival.

"Sakes alive!" she exclaimed, as she met him at the back door. "Where in
the world have you been, Mr. Ellery? Soakin' wet again, too!"

Ellery replied that he had been for a walk out to the bar. He sat down
on the step to remove the borrowed boots. A small rivulet of salt water
poured from each as he pulled them off.

"For a walk! A swim, you mean. How could you get in up to your waist if
you just walked? Did you fall down?"

"No, not exactly. But I waited too long and the tide headed me off."

"Mercy on us! you mustn't take chances on that tide. If you'd told me
you was goin', I'd have warned you to hurry back."

"Oh, I've been warned often enough. It was my own fault, as usual. I'm
not sure that I don't need a guardian."

"Humph! well, I ain't sure either. Was the channels very deep?"

"Deep enough. The fact is, that I might have got into serious trouble if
I hadn't been picked up."

He told briefly the story of his morning's adventure. The housekeeper
listened with growing excitement.

"Heavens to Betsy!" she interrupted. "Was the channel you planned to
swim the one at the end of the flat by the longest weir leader?"

"Yes."

"My soul! there's been two men drowned in that very place at half tide.
And they were good swimmers. After this I shan't dare let you out of my
sight."

"So? Was it as risky as that? Why, Captain Hammond didn't tell me so. I
must owe him more even than I thought."

"Yes, I guess you do. He wouldn't tell you, though; that ain't his way.
Deary me! for what we've received let us be thankful. And that reminds
me that biscuits ought to be et when they're first made, not after
they've been dried up on the back of the stove forever and ever amen.
Go on and change those wet things of yours and then we'll eat. Tryin' to
swim the main channel on the flood! My soul and body!"

"Captain Nat sent his regards to you, Mrs. Coffin," said the minister,
moving toward the stairs.

"Did, hey?" was the housekeeper's reply. "Want to know!"


CHAPTER VIII

IN WHICH THE PARSON AND MR. PEPPER DECLARE THEIR INDEPENDENCE


That afternoon, when dinner was over, the Reverend John decided to make
a few duty calls. The first of these he determined should be on the
Peppers. Lavinia and her brother had called at the Parsonage several
times, but as yet he had not paid them a visit. It was not a ceremony
to which he looked forward with delight, but it must be performed.
Miss Pepper had hinted several times, at sewing circle and after prayer
meeting, of "partiality" and "only stoppin' in where they had fancy
curtains up to the windows." So, as it could not be put off longer,
without causing trouble, he determined to go through with it.

The Pepper house was situated just off the main road on the lane leading
over the dunes to the ocean and the light. It was a small building, its
white paint dingy and storm beaten, and its little fenced-in front
yard dotted thickly with clumps of silver-leaf saplings. A sign, nailed
crookedly on a post, informed those seeking such information that within
was to be found "Abishai G. W. Pepper, Tax Collector, Assessor, Boots
and Shoes Repaired." And beneath this was fastened a shingle with the
chalked notice, "Salt Hay for sale."

The boot and shoe portion of the first sign was a relic of other days.
Kyan had been a cobbler once, but it is discouraging to wait three
or four weeks while the pair of boots one has left to be resoled are
forgotten in a corner. Captain Zeb Mayo's pointed comment, "I want my
shoe leather to wear while I'm alive, not to be laid out in after I die
of old age," expressed the general feeling of the village and explained
why custom had left Mr. Pepper and flown to the more enterprising
shoemaker at "The Corners." The tax collectorship might have followed
it, but here Lavinia kept her brother up to the mark. She went with
him on his rounds and it gave her opportunity to visit, and afterwards
comment upon, every family in town.

The minister walked up the dusty lane, lifted the Pepper gate and swung
it back on its one hinge, shooed away the three or four languid and
discouraged-looking fowls that were taking a sun bath on the clam-shell
walk, and knocked at the front door. No one coming in answer to the
knock, he tried again. Then he discovered a rusty bell pull and gave it
a sharp tug. The knob came off in his hand and he hurriedly thrust it
back again into its place. Evidently, that bell was solely for ornament.

He came to the conclusion that no one was at home and felt a guilty
sense of relief in consequence. But his conscience would not let him
depart without another try, so he clenched his fist and gave the cracked
door panel a series of tremendous thumps. A thin black cat, which had
evidently been asleep beneath the step, burst from its concealment and
fled in frantic terror. Then from somewhere in the rear of the house
came the sound of a human voice.

"Hi!" it called faintly. "Whoever you be, don't bust that door down.
Come round here."

Ellery walked around the corner of the building. The voice came again.

"Say!" it wailed, "why don't you answer? Be you comin'? If you're a
peddler, you needn't."

"I'm not a peddler," was the minister's amused reply.

"Oh, ain't ye? All right. Come along, then."

Ellery "came along" as far as the angle where the ell joined the main
body of the house. So far as he could see every door and window was
closed and there were no signs of life. However, he stepped to the door,
a green-painted affair of boards, and ventured another knock.

"Don't start that poundin' again!" protested the voice. "Come round to
t'other side where I be."

So around went the Reverend John, smiling broadly. But even on "t'other
side" there was no one to be seen. And no door, for that matter.

"Why!" exclaimed the voice, "if 'tain't Mr. Ellery! How d'ye do? Glad to
see you, Mr. Ellery. Fine day, ain't it? Here I be at this window."

Sure enough; one of the windows on this side of the house was raised
about six inches at the bottom, the shade was up, and peering beneath
the sash the minister discerned the expressive features of Abishai
Pepper--or as much of those features as the size of the opening
permitted to be seen.

"Oh!" exclaimed the visitor, "is that you, Mr. Pepper? Well, I'm glad to
see you, at last. You are rather hard to see, even now."

Kyan was plainly embarrassed. He stammered as he answered.

"Yes," he agreed, "I--I shouldn't wonder if I be. How be you? Pretty
smart?"

"Yes, thank you. I'm well."

"Er--er--come to call, did you?"

"Why, yes, that was my intention."

"Hum! Er--er--Laviny, she's gone over to Thankful Payne's. She heard
that Thankful's cousin up to Middleboro had died--passed away, I
mean--and she thought she'd run over and find out if Thankful was willed
anything. She said she'd be back pretty soon."

"Very well. Then, as she won't be gone long, perhaps I'll come in and
wait."

He was moving away toward the corner when a shout from beneath the
window sash brought him to a halt.

"Hi!" called Abishai. "Hi, Mr. Ellery! don't go to that door. 'Tain't no
use; it's locked."

"Locked? Well, you can unlock it, can't you?"

"No, not very well. That is, I--Mr. Ellery, come back here, won't ye? I
don't want anybody to hear."

The house of the nearest neighbor being several hundred yards away,
the likelihood of being overheard was improbable; but the minister came
back, nevertheless.

"You see, Mr. Ellery," stammered Kyan, "I--I'd like to have you come in
fust rate, but--er--Laviny she's got the key."

Ellery was surprised.

"She has!" he exclaimed.

"Um--hm, she's got it. She took it with her."

"But there are other doors. She didn't take them all, did she?"

"No--o, but--Well, the fact is, Mr. Ellery, I--I--I'm locked in."

"Locked in?"

"Yes, locked in this room. She--she--Oh, consarn it all, Mr. Ellery,
she's locked me in this room a-purpose, so's I won't get out and go
somewheres without her knowin' it."

"What?"

"Um--h'm; that's what she's done. Did you ever hear of anything like
that in your born days?"

This surprising disclosure was funny enough, but the tone of grieved
indignation in which Mr. Pepper told of his imprisonment was funnier
still. The minister coughed violently and looked the other way.

"She done it a-purpose," continued Kyan, in a burst of confidence. "She
had me put one of them new-fangled spring locks on the door of this room
t'other day, 'cause she said she was afraid of tramps and wanted some
place to shut herself up in if one of em come. And--and after dinner
to-day she sent me in here for somethin' and then slammed the door on
me. Said she cal'lated I'd stay put till she got back from Thankful's.
She knew mighty well I couldn't get out of the window, 'cause it won't
open no further'n 'tis now. I wa'n't never so provoked in my life.
'Tain't no way to treat your own brother, lockin' him up like a young
one; now, is it?"

Ellery's reply was not made immediately. He had heard numerous stories
concerning this odd household, some of which seemed too absurd for
belief. But this performance was more ridiculous than anything he had
heard.

"'Tain't right, is it, Mr. Ellery?" demanded Kyan.

"Why," answered the caller chokingly, "I--I--it is rather unusual,
that's a fact. May I ask what you've done to--"

"Done? I ain't done nothin'. She's so darned scared some other woman'll
get my money that--you see, a month or so ago I--I--well, she thought
I done somethin', or was plannin' to do somethin' that--Keziah Coffin
never told you anything about me, did she?"

"No, indeed. What could Mrs. Coffin tell me about you?"

"All right. Nothin', nothin'. Only if she did, tain't so. But I ain't
goin' to stand it no more, Mr. Ellery. Bein' shut up in a darned
old--excuse my swearin', I didn't mean to, though I got reason enough,
land knows--bein' shut up in a room full of trunks and odds and ends is
goin' too fur. I never want to smell old clothes ag'in long's I live.
Would you stand it if you was me, Mr. Ellery?"

"Why, of course I mustn't interfere in your family matters, Mr. Pepper.
Perhaps I'd better call some other time. Good afternoon."

"Hold on! hold on! you ain't answered me yet. You're a minister and I
go to your meetin' house. Tell me what you'd do if you was me. Would you
stand it?"

Ellery laughed aloud.

"No," he said, "I suppose I shouldn't."

"I bet you wouldn't! What would you do?"

"I don't know. You're of age, Mr. Pepper, and you must decide for
yourself. I think I should declare my independence. Really, I must go.
I--"

"Don't be in such a hurry. I want advice. I need it. And, so fur's
DECLARIN' goes, that don't do me no good. She can declare more things in
a minute than I can think of in a week. Tongue! I never heard--No, no!
Never mind the declarin'. What would you DO? S'posin' you wanted to go
outdoor without havin' her tagged to your coat tails, how'd you stop the
taggin'?"

The absurdity of the affair was too much for the visitor. He roared a
"Ha, ha!" that caused Abishai to wave a warning hand beneath the sash.

"Ss-h-h! sshh!" he hissed. "Folks'll hear ye, and I'd be so ashamed if
they did that I wouldn't dast to show my head. Can't show much of it,
anyhow, just now. By gum! I'll do somethin' desperate. I--I dunno as I
won't pizen her. I--"

"Hush! hush! you mustn't talk that way. I'm afraid you must be very
fascinating, Mr. Pepper. If your sister is so very fearful of your
meeting other women, it must be because she has good reason to fear."

"Stop your foolishness! Oh!--I--I ask your pardon, Mr. Ellery. That
ain't no way to talk to a minister. But I'm goin' to go out when I want
to if I bust a hole through the clapboards. I AIN'T fascinatin'. You ask
any woman--except her--if I be, and see what they say. What'll I DO?"

"Ha, ha! I don't know, I'm sure. You might lock HER up, I suppose, just
for a change."

"Hey!" There was a sound from behind the pane as if the imprisoned one
had slapped his knee. "By gum! I never thought of that. Would you now,
Mr. Ellery? Would you? Sshh! sshh! somebody's comin'. Maybe it's her.
Run around to the door, Mr. Ellery, quick. And don't tell her I've seen
you, for mercy sakes! Don't now, will ye? Please! Run!"

The minister did not run, but he walked briskly around the corner.
Sure enough, Lavinia was there, just unlocking the door. She expressed
herself as very glad to see the caller, ushered him into the sitting
room and disappeared, returning in another moment with her brother, whom
she unblushingly said had been taking a nap. Abishai did not contradict
her; instead, he merely looked apprehensively at the minister.

The call was a short one. Lavinia did seven eighths of the talking and
Ellery the rest. Kyan was silent. When the visit was over, Miss Pepper
escorted her guest to the door and bade him a voluble good-by. Over
her shoulder the minister saw Kyan making frantic signs to him;
he interpreted the signals as a request for secrecy concerning the
interview by the window.

Several times during the remainder of that week he surprised his
housekeeper by suddenly laughing aloud when there was, apparently,
nothing to laugh at. He explained these outbursts by saying that he
had thought of something funny. Keziah suggested that it must be mighty
funny to make him laugh in the middle of sermon writing.

"I've heard sermons that were funny," she said, "though they wasn't
intended to be; but what I've heard of yours ain't that kind. I wish
you'd let me in on the joke. I haven't been feelin' like laughin' for
the last fortni't."

She had been rather grave and preoccupied, for her, of late. Bustling
and busy she always was, never sitting down to "rest," as she called it,
without a lap full of sewing. The minister's clothes were mended and his
socks darned as they had not been since his mother's day. And with
him, at meal times, or after supper in the sitting room, she was always
cheerful and good-humored. But he had heard her sigh at her work, and
once, when she thought herself unobserved, he saw her wipe her eyes with
her apron.

"No, no," she protested, when he asked if anything had gone wrong. "I'm
all right. Got a little cold or somethin', I guess, that's all."

She would not give any other explanation and absolutely refused to see
the doctor. Ellery did not press the matter. He believed the "cold" to
be but an excuse and wondered what the real trouble might be. It seemed
to him to date from the evening of his chapel experience.

He told no one, not even her, of Kyan's confidential disclosure, and,
after some speculation as to whether or not there might be a sequel, put
the whole ludicrous affair out of his mind. He worked hard in his study
and at his pastoral duties, and was conscious of a pleasant feeling that
he was gaining his people's confidence and esteem.

A week from the following Sunday he dined in state at the Daniels's
table. Captain Elkanah was gracious and condescending. Annabel was more
than that. She was dressed in her newest gown and was so very gushing
and affable that the minister felt rather embarrassed. When, after the
meal was over, Captain Elkanah excused himself and went upstairs for
his Sabbath nap, the embarrassment redoubled. Miss Annabel spoke very
confidentially of her loneliness, without "congenial society," of
how VERY much she did enjoy Mr. Ellery's intellectual sermons, and
especially what a treat it had been to have him as a guest.

"You must dine here every Sunday," she said. "It will be no trouble at
all, and if you say no, I shall feel that it is because you don't want
to see me--FATHER and me, of course, I mean."

The minister didn't accept this pressing invitation; on the other
hand, he could not refuse it absolutely. He did not like Miss Daniels
overmuch, but she was the daughter of his leading parishioner and she
and her parent did seem to like him. So he dodged the issue and said she
was very kind.

He left the big house as soon as he could without giving offense, and
started back toward the parsonage. But the afternoon was so fine and the
early summer air so delightful that he changed his mind and, jumping the
fence at the foot of Cannon Hill, set off across the fields toward the
bluffs and the bay shore.

The sun was low in the west as he entered the grove of pines on the
bluff. The red light between the boughs made brilliant carpet patterns
on the thick pine needles and the smell was balsamy and sweet. Between
the tree trunks he caught glimpses of the flats, now partially covered,
and they reminded him of his narrow escape and of Nat Hammond, his
rescuer. He had met the captain twice since then, once at the store and
again on the main road, and had chatted with him. He liked him immensely
and wished he might count him as an intimate friend. But intimacy
between a Regular clergyman and the son of the leader of the Come-Outers
was out of the question. Partisans on both sides would shriek at the
idea.

Thinking of the Hammond family reminded him of another member of it. Not
that he needed to be reminded; he had thought of her often enough since
she ran away from him in the rain that night. And the picture in the
doorway was not one that he could forget--or wanted to. If she were
not a Come-Outer, he could meet her occasionally and they might become
friends. She was a disconcerting young person, who lacked proper respect
for one of his profession and laughed when she shouldn't--but she was
interesting, he admitted that.

And then he saw her. She was standing just at the outer edge of the
grove, leaning against a tree and looking toward the sunset. She wore a
simple white dress and her hat hung upon her shoulders by its ribbons.
The rosy light edged the white gown with pink and the fringes of her
dark hair were crinkly lines of fire. Her face was grave, almost sad.

John Ellery stood still, with one foot uplifted for a step. The girl
looked out over the water and he looked at her. Then a crow, one of
several whirling above the pines, spied the intruder and screamed a
warning. The minister was startled and stepped back. A dead limb beneath
his foot cracked sharply. Grace turned and saw him.

"Oh!" she cried. "Who is it?"

Ellery emerged from the shadow.

"Don't be frightened, Miss Van Horne," he said. "It is--er--I."

This statement was neither brilliant nor original; even as an
identification it lacked considerable.

"I?" repeated the girl. "Who? Oh! Why--"

The minister came forward.

"Good afternoon, Miss Van Horne," he stammered. "I'm afraid I frightened
you."

She was looking at him with a queer expression, almost as if she
scarcely believed him real.

"I hope--" he began again. She interrupted him.

"No," she said confusedly, "you didn't frighten me. I was a little
startled when I saw you there behind me. It seemed so odd, because I was
just thinking--No, I wasn't frightened. What is there to be frightened
of--in Trumet?"

He had extended his hand, but partially withdrew it, not sure how even
such a perfunctory act of friendliness might be received. She saved him
embarrassment by frankly offering her own.

"Not much, that's a fact," he said, in answer to her question. He
would have liked to ask what she had been thinking that made his sudden
appearance seem so odd.

"You came to see the sunset, I suppose?" she said hurriedly, as if to
head off a question. "So did I. It is a beautiful evening for a walk,
isn't it?"

She had said precisely the same thing on that other evening, when they
stood in the middle of "Hammond's Turn-off" in the driving rain. He
remembered it, and so, evidently, did she, for she colored slightly and
smiled.

"I mean it this time," she said. "I'm glad you didn't get cold from your
wetting the other day."

"Oh! I wasn't very wet. You wouldn't let me lend you the umbrella, so I
had that to protect me on the way home."

"Not then; I meant the other morning when Nat--Cap'n Hammond--met you
out on the flats. He said you were wading the main channel and it was
over your boots."

"Over my boots! Is that all he said? Over my head would be the plain
truth. To cross it I should have had to swim and, if what I've heard
since is true, I doubt if I could swim that channel. Captain Hammond
helped me out of a bad scrape."

"Oh, no! I guess not. He said you were cruising without a pilot and he
towed you into port; that's the way he expressed it."

"It was worse than that, a good deal worse. It might have been my last
cruise. I'm pretty certain that I owe the captain my life."

She looked at him uncomprehendingly.

"Your life?" she repeated.

"I believe it. That part of the channel I proposed swimming was exactly
where two men have been drowned, so people say. I'm not a very strong
swimmer, and they were. So, you see."

Grace cried out in astonishment.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. Then pointing toward the bay, she asked: "Out
there, by the end of that leader, was it?"

"Yes, that was it."

She drew a long breath. Then, after a moment:

"And Nat spoke as if it was all a joke," she said.

"No doubt he did. From what I hear of your brother, he generally refers
to his own plucky, capable actions as jokes. Other people call them
something else."

She did not answer, but continued to gaze at the half-submerged
"leader," with the pine bough tied at its landward end to mark the edge
of deep water, and the tide foaming through its lath gratings.

"Your brother--" went on the minister.

"He isn't my brother," she interrupted absently. "I wish he was."

She sighed as she uttered the last sentence.

"No, of course he isn't your real brother; I forgot. But he must seem
like one."

"Yes," rather doubtfully.

"You must be proud of him."

"I am." There was nothing doubtful this time.

"Well, he saved me from drowning. I'm almost certain of that."

"I'm so glad."

She seemed to mean it. He looked at her.

"Thank you," he said drily. "I'm rather glad myself."

"Oh! I didn't mean it exactly that way. Of course I'm glad you weren't
drowned, but I'm especially glad that--that one of our family saved you.
Now you won't believe that Come-Outers are all bad."

"I never believed it."

She shook her head.

"Oh, yes, you did," she affirmed stubbornly. "You've heard nothing good
of us since you came here. Don't tell fibs, Mr. Ellery."

"But I assure you--"

"Nonsense! Does--well, does Cap'n Daniels, or his daughter, say anything
good of us? Be honest, do they?"

"I hardly think--that is, I shouldn't call their opinions unprejudiced.
And, Miss Van Horne, perhaps the prejudice isn't all on one side. What
did your uncle say about Cap'n Nat's meeting me the other day?"

"Uncle Eben doesn't know. Nat didn't tell anyone but me. He doesn't
boast. And uncle would be glad he helped you. As I told you before, Mr.
Ellery, I'm not ashamed of my uncle. He has been so good to me that I
never can repay him, never! When my own father was drowned he took me
in, a little orphan that would probably have been sent to a home, and
no father could be kinder or more indulgent than he has been. Anything
I asked for I got, and at last I learned not to ask for too much. No
self-denial on his part was too great, if he could please me. When he
needed money most he said nothing to me, but insisted that I should be
educated. I didn't know until afterwards of the self-sacrifice my four
years at the Middleboro Academy meant to him."

The minister had listened eagerly to this defense of the man whom he had
been led to consider his arch enemy. It was given with spirit and the
girl's head was uplifted and her eyes flashed as she spoke. Ellery's
next remark was uttered without premeditation. Really, he was thinking
aloud.

"So you went away to school?" he mused. "That is why--"

"That is why I don't say 'never done nothin'' and 'be you' and
'hain't neither.' Yes, thank you, that's why. I don't wonder you were
surprised."

The young man blushed.

"You misunderstand me," he protested. "I didn't mean--"

"Oh! yes, you did. Not precisely that, perhaps, but pretty near it. I
suppose you expected me to speak like Josiah Badger or Kyan Pepper. I
try not to. And I try not to say 'immejitly,' too," she added, with a
mischievous twinkle.

Ellery recognized the "immejitly" quotation and laughed.

"I never heard but one person say that," he observed. "And he isn't a
Come-Outer."

"No, he isn't. Well, this lesson in English can't be very interesting
to you, Mr. Ellery, and I must go. But I'm very glad Nat helped you the
other day and that you realize the sort of man he is. And I'm glad I
have had the opportunity to tell you more about Uncle Eben. I owe him
so much that I ought to be glad--yes, glad and proud and happy, too, to
gratify his least wish. I must! I know I must, no matter how I--What
am I talking about? Yes, Mr. Ellery, I'm glad if I have helped you to
understand my uncle better and why I love and respect him. If you knew
him as I do, you would respect him, too. Good-by."

She was going, but the minister had something to say. He stepped forward
and walked beside her.

"Just a minute, please," he urged. "Miss Van Horne, I do understand. I
do respect your uncle. We have a mutual friend, you and I, and through
her I have come to understand many things."

Grace turned and looked at him.

"A mutual friend?" she repeated. "Oh! I know. Mrs. Coffin?"

"Yes; Mrs. Coffin. She's a good woman and a wise one."

"She's a dear! Do you like her, too?"

"Indeed, I do."

"Has she told you about me--about uncle, I mean?"

"Yes. Why, she told me--"

He began to enumerate some of the things Keziah had told concerning the
Hammond family. They were all good things, and he couldn't help seeing
that the recital pleased her. So he went on to tell how his housekeeper
had helped him, of her advice, of her many acts of kindness, of what
he owed to her. The girl listened eagerly, asking questions, nodding
confirmation, and, in her delight at hearing Keziah praised, quite
forgetting her previous eagerness to end the interview. And, as he
talked, he looked at her, at the red light on her hair, the shine of
her eyes, like phosphorus in the curl of a wave at night, at her long
lashes, and--

--"Yes," said Miss Van Horne, "you were saying--"

The minister awoke with a guilty start. He realized that his sentence
had broken off in the middle.

"Why! why--er--yes," he stammered. "I was saying that--that I don't know
what I should have done without Mrs. Coffin. She's a treasure. Frankly,
she is the only real friend I have found in Trumet."

"I know. I feel the same way about her. She means so much to me. I love
her more than anyone else in the world, except uncle, of course--and
Nat. I miss her very much since--since--"

"Since I came, you mean. I'm sorry. I wish--I hate to think I am the
cause which separates you two. It isn't my fault, as you know."

"Oh! I know that."

"Yes, and I object to having others choose my friends for me, people
who, because of a fanatical prejudice, stand in the way of--If it wasn't
for that, you might call and see Mrs. Coffin, just as you used to do."

Grace shook her head. They had moved on to the bend of the bluff, beyond
the fringe of pines, and were now standing at the very edge of the high
bank.

"If it wasn't for that, you would come," asserted the minister.

"Yes, I suppose so. I should like to come. I miss my talks with Aunt
Keziah more than you can imagine--now especially. But, somehow, what we
want to do most seems to be what we mustn't, and what we don't like is
our duty."

She said this without looking at him, and the expression on her face was
the same sad, grave one he had noticed when he first saw her standing
alone by the pine.

"Why don't you come?" he persisted.

"I can't, of course. You know I can't."

"Why not? If my company is objectionable I can go away when you come. If
you dislike me I--"

"You know I don't dislike you personally."

"I'm awfully glad of that."

"But it's impossible. Uncle respects and is fond of Aunt Keziah, but he
wouldn't hear of my visiting the parsonage."

"But don't you think your uncle might be persuaded? I'm sure he
misunderstands me, just as I should him if it weren't for Mrs.
Coffin--and what you've said. Don't you think if I called on him and he
knew me better it might help matters? I'll do it gladly. I will!"

"No, no. He wouldn't listen. And think of your own congregation."

"Confound my congregation!"

"Why, Mr. Ellery!"

She looked at him in amazement; then her lips began to curl.

"Why, Mr. Ellery!" she repeated.

The minister turned very red and drew his hand across his forehead.

"I--I don't mean that exactly," he stammered. "But I'm not a child. I
have the right to exercise a man's discretion. My parish committee must
understand that. They shall! If I choose to see you--Look out!"

She was close to the overhanging edge of the bluff and the sod upon
which she stood was bending beneath her feet. He sprang forward, caught
her about the waist, and pulled her back. The sod broke and rattled down
the sandy slope. She would have had a slight tumble, nothing worse, had
she gone with it. There was no danger; and yet the minister was very
white as he released her.

She, too, was pale for a moment, and then crimson.

"Thank you," she gasped. "I--I must go. It is late. I didn't realize how
late it was. I--I must go."

He did not answer, though he tried to.

"I must go," she said hurriedly, speaking at random. "Good afternoon.
Good-by. I hope you will enjoy your walk."

"I have enjoyed it." His answer was unstudied but emphatic. She
recognized the emphasis.

"Will you come to see Mrs. Coffin?" he asked.

"No, no. You know I can't. Good-by. The sunset is beautiful, isn't it?"

"Beautiful, indeed."

"Yes. I--I think the sunsets from this point are the finest I have ever
seen. I come here every Sunday afternoon to see them."

This remark was given merely to cover embarrassment, but it had an
unexpected effect.

"You DO?" cried the minister. The next moment he was alone. Grace Van
Horne had vanished in the gloom of the pine thickets.

It was a strange John Ellery who walked slowly back along the path, one
that Keziah herself would not have recognized, to say nothing of
Captain Elkanah and the parish committee. The dignified parson, with
the dignified walk and calm, untroubled brow, was gone, and here was
an absent-minded young fellow who stumbled blindly along, tripping over
roots and dead limbs, and caring nothing, apparently, for the damage to
his Sunday boots and trousers which might result from the stumbles. He
saw nothing real, and heard nothing, not even the excited person who,
hidden behind the bayberry bush, hailed him as he passed. It was not
until this person rushed forth and seized him by the arm that he came
back to the unimportant affairs of this material earth.

"Why! Why, Mr. Pepper!" he gasped. "Are you here? What do you want?"

"Am I here?" panted Kyan. "Ain't I been here for the last twenty minutes
waitin' to get a chance at you? Ain't I been chasin' you from Dan
to Beersheby all this dummed--excuse me--afternoon? Oh, my godfreys
mighty!"

"Why, what's the matter?"

"Matter? Matter enough! It's all your fault. You got me into the mess,
now you git me out of it."

Usually, when Abishai addressed his clergyman, it was in a tone of
humble respect far different from his present frantic assault. The
Reverend John was astounded.

"What IS the trouble, Mr. Pepper?" he demanded. "Behave yourself, man.
What IS it?"

"You--you made me do it," gurgled Kyan. "Yes, sir, 'twas you put me up
to it. When you was at our house t'other day, after Laviny locked me up,
you told me the way to get square was to lock her up, too. And I done
it! Yes, sir, I done it when she got back from meetin' this noon. I
run off and left her locked in. And--and"--he wailed, wringing his
hands--"I--I ain't dast to go home sence. WHAT'll I do?"


CHAPTER IX

IN WHICH MISS DANIELS DETERMINES TO FIND OUT


The hysterical Mr. Pepper doubtless expected his clergyman to be almost
as much upset as he was by the news of his action. But John Ellery was
provokingly calm. As a matter of fact he scarcely grasped the purport of
the little man's disjointed story. He had been wandering in dreamland,
his head among the clouds, and the explosion of Keziah's bomb disturbed,
but did not clear the air.

"What will you do?" he repeated. "Why--er--I don't know, I'm sure."

Kyan was staggered.

"You don't know?" he shouted. "YOU don't? Then who does, for the land
sakes? Didn't you tell me to lock her up? Didn't I do it 'CAUSE you told
me? Didn't--didn't--"

He seemed to be on the verge of apoplexy. Also he had raised his
voice to a yell. The minister seized him by the arm and shook him into
silence.

"Hush! hush!" he commanded. "Wait a minute. Let me understand this
thing. Some one is locked up, you say. Who is it? Where--"

"WHO is it? Ain't I tellin' you. It's Laviny. She went into that spare
room where I was t'other day and I slammed the spring lock to on her.
Then I grabbed the key and run. That was afore three this afternoon; now
it's 'most night and I ain't dast to go home. What'll she say when I
let her out? I got to let her out, ain't I? She can't starve to death in
there, can she? And YOU told me to do it! YOU did! Oh--"

The apoplectic attack was once more imminent.

"Stop it, Mr. Pepper," ordered Ellery. "I don't remember telling you
to lock your sister up, though--Why, yes, I may have said something or
other, as a joke, but I didn't expect you would seriously consider doing
such a thing. Ha, ha! This is the most idiotic piece of business that I
ever--"

"Be you laughin'?" demanded the shocked Abishai. "LAUGHIN'? Why, my
godfreys mighty! Idiotic? Well, who's the idiot? 'Tain't me! I'D never
have thought of such a fool trick. But you said--"

"Hush! Let me think. Have you told anybody?"

"TOLD anybody! I guess NOT. And nobody'll never know if they wait for me
to tell 'em."

"Well, then, I don't see why you can't go home and--hum--I don't like
to advise your telling a lie, but you might let her infer that it was an
accident. OR, if you really mean to be your own master, you can tell her
you did it purposely and will do it again if she ever tries the trick on
you."

"I tell her that! I tell her! O Mr. Ellery, DON'T talk so. You don't
know Laviny; she ain't like most women. If I should tell her that
she'd--I don't know's she wouldn't take and horsewhip me. Or commit
suicide. She's said she would afore now if--if--"

"Nonsense! She won't do that, you needn't worry." He burst into another
laugh, but checked himself, as he saw the look of absolute distress on
poor Kyan's face.

"Never mind, Mr. Pepper," he said. "We'll think of some plan to smooth
matters over. I'll go home with you now and we'll let her out together."

"Will you, Mr. Ellery? Will you, honest? Say, by godfreys mighty, I'd
get down on my knees and thank you this minute if--if I wa'n't in such a
hurry. Come right on; come quick!"

It was a silent procession of two that wended its way out of the pines
and across the fields, by the brook and the pond, where the evening
mists were rising and the frogs chanting their good-night song,
through the gathering twilight shades, across the main road and up the
lighthouse lane. Kyan, his mind filled with fearful forebodings, was
busily trying to think of a reasonable excuse for the "accidental"
imprisonment of his sister. John Ellery was thinking, also, but his
thoughts were not of the Peppers.

The little house was dark and still as they approached it. No welcoming
light in the dining-room windows, no open door, no shrill voice
demanding to know where the wandering brother had been "all this
everlastin' time." Even the hens had gone to roost. Abishai groaned.

"Oh, dear!" he wailed. "I'm scart to death. Where is she? You don't
cal'late she's done it, do ye?"

"Done it? Done what?"

"Done the suicidin'. She said she would if--O Laviny!"

"Hush! Be quiet. She's all right. She's in the room where you left her,
of course. She couldn't get out, could she? You've got the key. Come
in."

They entered the house. The dining room was dark and quiet. So was the
sitting room. The clock ticked, solemn and slow. Kyan clutched at his
companion's arm.

"I don't hear her," he whispered. "You don't s'pose she HAS done it?
Godfreys mighty!"

The gloom and mystery were having their effect, even on Mr. Ellery's
nerves. His answer also was given in a tense whisper, but with some
irritation.

"Hush!" he murmured. "Let go of my wrist. You've pinched it black and
blue. Which room did you leave her in? Show me at once."

Kyan's trembling knees managed to carry him to the little hall leading
from the sitting room toward the ell at the side of the house. This hall
was almost pitch black. The minister felt his guide's chin whisker brush
his ear as the following sentence was literally breathed into it:

"Here--here 'tis," panted Kyan. "Here's the door. I don't hear nothin',
do you? Listen!"

They listened. Not a sound, save the dismal tick of the clock in the
room they had left. Ellery knocked on the door.

"Miss Pepper," he said; "Miss Pepper, are you there?"

Kyan caught his breath. No answer.

"Miss Pepper," repeated the minister. "Miss Pepper!"

Silence, absolute. Abishai could stand it no longer. He groaned and
collapsed on his knees.

"She has!" he moaned. "She's done it and there ain't nothin' in there
but her remains. Oh, my soul!"

Ellery, now rather frightened himself, shook him violently.

"Be quiet, you idiot!" he commanded. "We must go in. Give me the key."

After repeated orders and accompanying shakings, Kyan produced a key.
The minister snatched it from his trembling fingers, felt for the
keyhole and threw the door open. The little room was almost as dark as
the hall and quite as still. There was a distinct smell of old clothes
and camphor.

"A match," demanded Ellery. "Quick!"

"I ain't got none," quavered Mr. Pepper. "They're all in the box in the
settin' room. Oh, my godfreys mighty! What'll I do? What undertaker'll I
have? Solon Tripp's the reg'lar one, but Laviny and he had a row and
she said she'd come back and ha'nt me if I ever let him touch her
rema--Where you goin'? DON'T LEAVE ME HERE!"

The minister was going after a match, and said so. In a moment he
returned with several. One of these he lit. The brimstone sputtered,
burned blue and fragrant, then burst into a yellow flame.

The little room was empty.

John Ellery drew a breath of relief. Then he laughed.

"Humph!" he exclaimed. "She's gone."

"GONE? Why, she ain't nuther! Where could she go?"

"I don't know, but she has gone--somewhere. At any rate, she's not
here."

Kyan rose to his feet. His alarm had changed to paralyzed astonishment.

"How could she go?" he repeated. "That window won't open more'n six
inches. Laviny ain't what you'd call fleshy, but she never could squeeze
through that in this world. And I locked the door, 'cause I heard the
click. I--I--I--do you b'lieve in spirits, Mr. Ellery?"

"Nonsense! Come into the sitting room, light a lamp, and let's talk it
over."

The lamp was found and lighted at last. Its radiance brightened the
dingy sitting room.

"Do you b'lieve in spirits?" repeated Kyan. "I've heard yarns about
folks bein' spirited away, but I never took much stock in 'em. And,"
he added with conviction, "'twould take a pretty husky spirit to handle
Laviny if she had her mad up. She--Hush! hear that!"

The sound of wheels was heard in the lane by the front gate. A vehicle
stopped. Then some one called a hurried good night. Mr. Pepper's fear
returned.

"It's her!" he cried. "She's been ahuntin' for me. NOW I'll get it!
You stand by me, Mr. Ellery. You got to. You said you would. But how on
earth did she get--"

The minister motioned him to silence.

"I'll stand by you," he whispered. "Don't speak. Leave it to me."

A step sounded on the back step. The dining-room door was hurriedly
thrown open.

"'Bishy," called Miss Pepper eagerly. "'Bish, where are you?"

"Here--here I be, Laviny," faltered Kyan.

His sister appeared on the threshold. She was dressed in her Sunday
best, flowered poke bonnet, mitts, imitation India shawl, rustling black
bombazine gown. She looked at Mr. Pepper then at the minister.

"O Mr. Ellery!" she exclaimed, "be you here?"

The Reverend John admitted his presence. Miss Pepper's demeanor
surprised him. She did not seem angry; indeed, she acted embarrassed and
confused, as if she, and not her brother, were the guilty party.

"I'm afraid I'm awful late, 'Bishy," she said. "Have you had your
supper?"

Kyan was too perturbed to venture a reply. The sword above his head was
quivering on its single hair and he was preparing to dodge the fall. But
it did not fall.

"You haven't had any supper, have you?" purred Miss Pepper pityingly.
"It's too bad. You poor thing! you must be awful hungry."

She moved across the room and kissed him. Abishai, who had prepared
himself for a different sort of greeting, clutched his chair with both
hands. He looked as if he might faint. The minister gazed open-mouthed.

"I'm awful sorry, Mr. Ellery," gushed Lavinia, removing the bonnet. "You
see, I was invited out to ride this afternoon and--and--I went."

She glanced at her brother, reddened--yes, almost blushed--and
continued.

"You know, 'Bishy," she said "Thankful Payne's cousin's home avisitin'
her. He come about that cousin's will--the other cousin that's just
died. He's a reel nice man--her live cousin is--keeps a shoe store up
to Sandwich, and I used to know him years ago. When I was over to
Thankful's t'other day, him and me had quite a talk. We got speakin' of
what nice drives there was around Trumet and--and--er--well, he asked me
if I wouldn't like to go to ride next Sunday afternoon--that's to-day.
And a ride bein' a good deal of a treat to me, I said I would. Thankful
was goin', too, but--er--er--she couldn't very well. So Caleb--that's
his name, you remember, 'Bishy--he come round with his horse and team
about ha'f past three and we started. But I'd no IDEE 'twas so late.
I--I--meant to tell you I was goin', 'Bish, but I forgot."

Kyan had listened to this recital, or explanation, or apology, with a
curious succession of expressions passing over his face. He swallowed
two or three times, but did not interrupt.

"I'm so sorry I kept you waitin' supper," gushed Lavinia. "I'll get you
a good one now. Oh, well, deary me! I must be gettin' absent-minded. I
ain't asked you where you've been all the afternoon."

Abishai's eyes turned beseechingly toward his promised backer. Ellery
could not resist that mute appeal.

"Your brother has been with me for some time, Miss Pepper," he
volunteered.

"Oh, has he? Ain't that nice! He couldn't have been in better comp'ny,
I'm sure. But oh, say, 'Bishy! I ain't told you how nigh I come to not
gettin' out at all. Just afore Mr. Payne come, I was in that spare room
and--you remember I put a spring lock on that door?"

It was here at last. The long-dreaded explosion was imminent. Kyan's
chin shook. He braced himself for the blow. The minister prepared to
come to the rescue.

"Yes," went on Lavinia. "I--I put a lock on that door so's I--I could
shut the room up when I wanted to. Well, when I was in there this
afternoon the wind blew the door shut and--Hey?"

"I--I never said nothin'," panted Kyan.

"Yes, it blew to, the lock clicked, and there I was. If I hadn't had the
other key in my pocket I don't know's I wouldn't have been in there yet.
That would have been a pretty mess, wouldn't it! He! he! he!"

She laughed shrilly. The minister looked at her, then at her brother,
and he, too, burst into a shout of laughter. Kyan did not laugh; yet his
grip upon the chair relaxed, and over his countenance was spreading a
look of relief, of hope and peace, like a clear sunrise after a stormy
night.

"Well, I must go and get supper," declared Lavinia. "You'll forgive me
for leavin' you so, won't you, 'Bishy?"

Mr. Pepper sighed.

"Yes," he said slowly. "I'll forgive you, Laviny."

"I knew you would. I hope you ain't been too lonesome. Did you miss me?
Was you worried?"

"Hey? Yes, I--I missed you consider'ble. I WAS gettin' sort of worried.
I didn't s'pose you'd go off to ride with--with a feller and leave me
all alone. But I forgive you." He stopped, drew his hand across his
forehead, and then added, "I s'pose I hadn't ought to complain. Maybe
I'd better get used to it; I guess likely this is only the beginnin'."

Lavinia blushed furiously.

"Why, 'Bish!" she exclaimed. "How you do talk! Ain't he awful, Mr.
Ellery?"

The Reverend John did not answer. He could not trust himself to speak
just then. When he did it was to announce that he must be getting toward
home. No, he couldn't stay for supper.

Miss Pepper went into the kitchen, and Abishai saw the visitor to the
door. Ellery extended his hand and Kyan shook it with enthusiasm.

"Wa'n't it fine?" he whispered. "Talk about your miracles! Godfreys
mighty! Say, Mr. Ellery, don't you ever tell a soul how it really was,
will you?"

"No, of course not."

"No, I know you won't. You won't tell on me and I won't tell on you.
That's a trade, hey?"

The minister stopped in the middle of his step.

"What?" he said, turning.

Mr. Pepper merely smiled, winked, and shut the door. John Ellery
reflected much during his homeward walk.


The summer in Trumet drowsed on, as Trumet summers did in those days,
when there were no boarders from the city, no automobiles or telephones
or "antique" collectors. In June the Sunday school had its annual
picnic. On the morning of the Fourth of July some desperate spirits
among the younger set climbed in at the church window and rang the bell,
in spite of the warning threats of the selectmen, who had gone on record
as prepared to prosecute all disturbers of the peace to the "full extent
of the law." One of the leading citizens, his name was Daniels, awoke to
find the sleigh, which had been stored in his carriage house, hoisted to
the roof of his barn, and a section of his front fence tastefully draped
about it like a garland. The widow Rogers noticed groups of people
looking up at her house and laughing. Coming out to see what they were
laughing at, she was provoked beyond measure to find a sign over the
front door, announcing "Man Wanted Imediate. Inquire Within." The door
of the Come-Outer chapel was nailed fast and Captain Zeb Mayo's old
white horse wandered loose along the main road ringed with painted black
stripes like a zebra. Captain Zeb was an angry man, for he venerated
that horse.

The storm caused by these outbreaks subsided and Trumet settled into
its jog trot. The stages rattled through daily, the packet came and went
every little while, occasionally a captain returned home from a long
voyage, and another left for one equally long. Old Mrs. Prince, up at
the west end of the town, was very anxious concerning her son, whose
ship was overdue at Calcutta and had not been heard from. The minister
went often to see her and tried to console, but what consolation is
there when one's only child and sole support is nobody knows where,
drowned and dead perhaps, perhaps a castaway on a desert island, or
adrift with a desperate crew in an open boat? And Mrs. Prince would say,
over and over again:

"Yes, yes, Mr. Ellery. Thank you. I'm sure you mean to encourage me, but
oh, you don't know the things that happen to seafarin' men. I do. I went
to sea with my husband for fourteen year. He died on a voyage and they
buried him over the vessel's side. I can't even go to his grave. The sea
got him, and now if it's taken my Eddie--"

The young clergyman came away from these calls feeling very young,
indeed, and woefully inadequate. What DID he know of the great sorrows
of life?

The Sunday dinners with the Daniels family were almost regular weekly
functions now. He dodged them when he could, but he could not do so
often without telling an absolute lie, and this he would not do. And,
regularly, when the solemn meal was eaten, Captain Elkanah went upstairs
for his nap and the Reverend John was left alone with Annabel. Miss
Daniels did her best to be entertaining, was, in fact, embarrassingly
confidential and cordial. It was hard work to get away, and yet, somehow
or other, at the stroke of four, the minister always said good-by and
took his departure.

"What is your hurry, Mr. Ellery?" begged Annabel on one occasion when
the reading of Moore's poems had been interrupted in the middle by the
guest's sudden rising and reaching for his hat. "I don't see why you
always go so early. It's so every time you're here. Do you call at any
other house on Sunday afternoons?"

"No," was the prompt reply. "Oh, no."

"Then why can't you stay? You know I--that is, pa and I--would LOVE to
have you."

"Thank you. Thank you. You're very kind. But I really must go. Good
afternoon, Miss Daniels."

"Mrs. Rogers said she saw you going across the fields after you left
here last Sunday. Did you go for a walk?"

"Er--er--yes, I did."

"I wish you had mentioned it. I love to walk, and there are SO few
people that I find congenial company. Are you going for a walk now?"

"Why, no--er--not exactly."

"I'm sorry. GOOD-by. Will you come again next Sunday? Of COURSE you
will. You know how dreadfully disappointed I--we--shall be if you
don't."

"Thank you, Miss Daniels. I enjoyed the dinner very much. Good
afternoon."

He hurried down the path. Annabel watched him go. Then she did an odd
thing. She passed through the sitting room, entered the front hall, went
up the stairs, tiptoed by the door of her father's room, and then up
another flight to the attic. From here a steep set of steps led to the
cupola on the roof. In that cupola was a spyglass.

Annabel opened a window a few inches, took the spyglass from its rack,
adjusted it, laid it on the sill of the open window and knelt, the glass
at her eye. The floor of the cupola was very dusty and she was wearing
her newest and best gown, but she did not seem to mind.

Through the glass she saw the long slope of Cannon Hill, with the beacon
at the top and Captain Mayo's house near it. The main road was deserted
save for one figure, that of her late caller. He was mounting the hill
in long strides.

She watched him gain the crest and pass over it out of sight. Then she
shifted the glass so that it pointed toward the spot beyond the curve
of the hill, where the top of a thick group of silver-leafs hid the
parsonage. Above the tree tops glistened the white steeple of the
Regular church. If the minister went straight home she could not see
him. But under those silver-leafs was the beginning of the short cut
across the fields where Didama had seen Mr. Ellery walking on the
previous Sunday.

So Annabel watched and waited. Five minutes, then ten. He must have
reached the clump of trees before this, yet she could not see him.
Evidently, he had gone straight home. She drew a breath of relief.

Then, being in a happier frame of mind, and the afternoon clear and
beautiful, she moved the glass along the horizon, watching the distant
white specks across the bay on the Wellmouth bluffs--houses and
buildings they were--the water, the shore, the fish weirs, the pine
groves. She became interested in a sloop, beating into Wellmouth harbor,
and watched that. After a time she heard, in the house below, her father
shouting her name.

She gave the glass one more comprehensive sweep preparatory to closing
it and going downstairs. As she did this a moving speck came into view
and vanished.

Slowly she moved the big end of the spyglass back along the arc it had
traveled. She found the speck and watched it. It was a man, striding
across the meadow land, a half mile beyond the parsonage, and hurrying
in the direction of the beach. She saw him climb a high dune, jump a
fence, cross another field and finally vanish in the grove of pines on
the edge of the bluff by the shore.

The man was John Ellery, the minister. Evidently, he had not gone home,
nor had he taken the short cut. Instead he had walked downtown a long
way and THEN turned in to cross the fields and work his way back.

Annabel put down the glass and, heedless of her father's calls, sat
thinking. The minister had deliberately deceived her. More than that, he
had gone to considerable trouble to avoid observation. Why had he done
it? Had he done the same thing on other Sunday afternoons? Was there
any real reason why he insisted on leaving the house regularly at four
o'clock?

Annabel did not know. Her eyes snapped and her sharp features looked
sharper yet as she descended the steps to the attic. She did not know;
but she intended to find out.


CHAPTER X

IN WHICH KEZIAH'S TROUBLES MULTIPLY


Keziah was getting worried about her parson. Not concerning his
popularity with his congregation. She had long since ceased to worry
about that. The young minister's place in his people's regard was now
assured, the attendance was increasing, and the Regular church was
now on a firmer footing, financially and socially, than it had been
in years. Even Mrs. Rogers and Lavinia Pepper had ceased to criticise,
except as pertained to unimportant incidentals, and were now among the
loudest of the praise chanters. And as Captain Zeb Mayo said: "When
Didama and Laviny stops fault-findin', the millennium's so nigh port a
feller ought to be overhaulin' his saint uniform."

But what worried Mrs. Coffin was John Ellery's personal appearance and
behavior. He had grown perceptibly thinner during the past month, his
manner was distrait, and, worst of all in the housekeeper's eyes, his
appetite had fallen off. She tried all sorts of tempting dishes, but the
result was discouraging.

"What!" she exclaimed. "Don't want but one piece of huckleberry pie?
Why, a week ago you ate three and looked kind of disappointed 'cause the
dish was empty. What is the matter? Are you sick?"

"No, Mrs. Coffin," replied the Reverend John. "No, I'm not sick. I just
don't feel hungry, that's all."

"Hum! Well, I've usually noticed that when a healthy man don't feel
hungry at dinner time, 'specially in the huckleberry season, his
healthiness is pretty shaky. What does ail you, Mr. Ellery? Got
somethin' on your mind? If you have, I'd heave it overboard. Or you
might unload it onto me and let me prescribe. I've had consider'ble
experience in that kind of doctorin'."

But the answer was unsatisfactory. Mr. Ellery laughed, changed the
subject, and wandered out into the garden, where Keziah saw him, shortly
afterwards, intently regarding nothing in particular with a rapt stare.
She watched him for a few moments and then, with a puzzled shake of
the head, returned to her work. She believed that he was troubled about
something and was herself troubled in consequence.

His absent-mindedness was most acute on Sunday evenings, before prayer
meeting, and after he had returned from the afternoon at Captain
Elkanah's.

"Say, Mr. Ellery," she said, on one of these Sunday evenings, "do you
know, it seems to me that Elkanah's meals must go to your head. Don't
have any of his granddad's New England rum, do you? They tell me he's
got some of that down cellar that he doles out occasional to his
very particular friends. That's the common yarn around town, though I
couldn't swear 'twas gospel."

The minister smiled and denied acquaintanceship with the New England
beverage.

"Humph! Then it must be the other thing. You ain't in love, are you?"

The young man started, colored, and was plainly embarrassed.

"In love?" he repeated. "In love, Mrs. Coffin?"

"Yes, in love. Annabel hasn't landed a male at last, has she? She's a
line over the side for a long time."

The hearty laugh with which this was received settled the question of
Annabel's success. Keziah was relieved.

"Well, I'm glad of that," she said. "I ain't got any grudge against
Annabel, but neither have I got one against you. Another man in that
family would have an easy time in one way, he wouldn't have to do any
thinkin' for himself--Elkanah and his daughter would do all that was
necessary. So you're not in love. Then I don't know what does ail you.
I'll say this, though, for a body that ain't in love you certainly stay
with the Danielses a long time. You went there right after meetin' this
noon and now it's seven o'clock and you've just got home. And 'twas the
same last Sunday and the one before. Been there all the time, have you?"

She knew he had not, because she had seen him pass the parsonage, on
the opposite side of the road, two hours before. But she was curious to
learn what his reply would be. It was noncommittal.

"No," he said slowly. "Not all the time. I--er--went for a short walk."

Before she could inquire concerning that walk he had entered the study
and closed the door after him.

During the week which followed this particular conversation he was more
absent-minded than ever. There were evenings when he spoke scarcely a
word, but sat silent in his chair, while Keziah, looking up from her
mending, watched him and guessed and wondered. After he had gone to his
room for the night, she would hear him pacing the floor, back and forth,
back and forth. She asked no more questions, however; minding her own
business was a specialty of Keziah's, and it was a rare quality in
Trumet.

Sunday was a cloudy, warm day, "muggy," so Captain Zeb described it.
After the morning service Mr. Ellery, as usual, went home with Captain
Daniels and Annabel. Keziah returned to the parsonage, ate a lonely
dinner, washed the dishes, and sat down to read a library book. She
read for an hour and then, finding it difficult to keep her mind on the
story, gave it up, closed the book and, rising, walked to the window.
But the misty, hot loneliness of the afternoon, was neither interesting
nor cheerful, so she turned away and went upstairs to her own room. Her
trunk was in one corner of this room and she unlocked it, taking from
a compartment of the tray a rosewood writing case, inlaid with
mother-of-pearl, a present from her father, who had brought it home from
sea when she was a girl.

From the case she took a packet of letters and a daguerreotype. The
latter was the portrait of a young man, in high-collared coat, stock,
and fancy waistcoat. His hair, worn long over the ears, was smooth with
a shine that suggested oil, and in his shirt front was a large pin,
which might possibly have been mistaken by a credulous observer for a
diamond. Mrs. Coffin looked at the daguerreotype, sighed, shuddered, and
laid it aside. Then she opened the packet of letters. Selecting one from
the top of the pile, she read it slowly. And, as she read, she sighed
again.

She did not hear the back door of the parsonage open and close softly.
Nor did she hear the cautious footsteps in the rooms below. What aroused
her from her reading was her own name, spoken at the foot of the stairs.

"Keziah! Keziah, are you there?"

She started, sprang up, and ran out into the hall, the letter still in
her hand.

"Who is it?" she asked sharply. "Mr. Ellery, is that you?"

"No," was the answer. "It's me--Nat. Are you busy, Keziah? I want to see
you for a minute."

The housekeeper hurriedly thrust the letter into her waist.

"I'll be right down, Nat," she answered. "I'm comin'."

He was in the sitting room when she entered. He was wearing his Sunday
suit of blue and his soft felt hat was on the center table. She held out
her hand and he shook it heartily.

"Well!" she observed, smiling, "I declare if I don't believe you've got
the tiptoe habit. This is the second time you've sneaked into the house
and scared me 'most to death. I asked you before if you wa'n't ashamed
of yourself and now I ask it again."

Before he could reply she caught a glimpse of his face.

"What is it?" she asked. "What is the matter? Is anybody sick? Is your
father--"

"No, he's all right. That is, he's as well as he has been lately, though
that isn't sayin' much."

"Is Grace--"

"No, she's all right, too, I guess. Been sort of quiet and sorrowful
for the last few weeks--or I've seemed to notice that she has--but
I cal'late it's nothin' serious. I wouldn't wonder if the same thing
that's troublin' her is what ails me."

"But what is it? Why don't you tell me?"

"I'm goin' to tell you, Keziah. That's what I come here for. I--"

"Sit down, can't you? Don't stand up there like a lighthouse, shuttin'
out the whole broadside of the room. You are the BIGGEST thing!"

Captain Hammond selected the most substantial chair in the apartment and
sat down upon it. He looked at his friend and shook his head.

"No use, Keziah," he said. "If I was as deep down in the blues as the
bottom of the Whale Deep, a look at that face of yours would pull me to
the top again. You're a good woman!"

"Thanks! When I have spare time on my hands I'll practice tryin' to
believe that. But what is the trouble, Nat? Out with it."

"Well, Keziah, it's trouble enough. Dad and I have had a fallin' out."

Mrs. Coffin's mouth and eyes opened.

"What?" she cried, in utter astonishment.

"Yes. It's true. We had what was next door to a real quarrel after
dinner to-day. It would have been a real one if I hadn't walked off and
left him. He's as set as the rock of Gibraltar, and--"

"And your foundations ain't given to slippin' much. Nat Hammond, I'm
surprised at you! What was it all about? Religion?"

"No, not a sliver of religion in it. If 'twas that, I could dodge, or
haul down my colors, if I had to. But it's somethin' worse, enough sight
worse. Somethin' I can't do--even for dad--and won't either. Keziah,
he's dead set on my marryin' Grace. Says if I don't he'll know that
I don't really care a tin nickel for him, or for his wishes, or what
becomes of the girl after he's gone."

"Nat!"

"It's a fact. You see, dad realizes, better'n I thought he did, that his
health is pretty shaky and that he is likely to founder 'most any time.
He says that don't worry him; if he knew Grace and I were provided for
he'd slip his cable with a clean manifest. But the dream of his life, he
says, has been that we should marry. And he wants to see it done."

Keziah was silent for a moment. Then she said slowly:

"And Grace herself? How does she feel about it? Has he spoken to her?"

"I don't know. I guess likely he has. Perhaps that's why she's been so
sort of mournful lately. But never mind whether he has or not; I won't
do it and I told him so. He got red hot in a jiffy. I was ungrateful and
stubborn and all sorts of things. And I, bein' a Hammond, with some of
the Hammond balkiness in me, I set my foot down as hard as his. And we
had it until--until--well, until I saw him stagger and tremble so that I
actually got scared and feared he was goin' to keel over where he stood.

"'Why can't you?' he kept sayin'. 'But WHY can't you? Ain't she a girl
anyone would be proud to have for a wife?' 'Course there was no answer
to that but yes. Then back he comes again with 'Then why can't you?' At
last, bein' frightened, as I said, that he might have another shock or
somethin', I said I'd think it over and come away and left him. And I
come straight to you. Keziah, what shall I do? What can you say to help
me?"

Keziah was silent. She was looking, not at her companion, but at the
carpet center of one of the braided rugs on the floor. Her face was very
grave and the lines about her mouth seemed to deepen. Her hands, clasped
in her lap, tightened one upon the other. But her voice was calm when,
at last, she spoke.

"Nat," she said, "there's only one thing I can say. And that's what your
father said: Why can't you?"

The captain sprang from his chair.

"What?" he cried incredulously. "What are you sayin'?"

"Just what your father said, Nat. Why can't you marry Grace? She's a
dear, good girl and--"

"That be--keelhauled! Keziah Coffin, you sit there and ask me why I
can't marry her! YOU do?"

"Yes, Nat."

"Keziah, you're crazy! Don't talk to me like that. We're not jokin' now.
You know why I can't marry her, nor anyone else in this round world but
you."

"Nat, I can't marry you."

"I know, I know. You're always sayin' that. But you don't mean it. You
can't mean it. Why, you and me have been picked out for each other by
the Almighty, Keziah. I swear I believe just that. We went together when
we were boy and girl, to parties and such. We was promised when I first
went to sea. If it hadn't been for that fool row we had--and 'twas all
my fault and I know it--you never would have let that da--that miserable
Anse Coffin come near you. And when 'twas too late and you'd married
him, the mean, drunken, cruel--"

"Hush, Nat! hush! Stop it!"

"He was, and you know he was. Yes, and worse besides. Runnin' off and
leavin' a wife like you to--Oh, my God! when I think I might have been
your husband to look out for you and take care of you! That you
might have been with me on board my ships. That, when I come down the
companion on stormy nights I might have found you there to comfort me
and--O Keziah! we aren't young any more. What's the use of foolin'? I
want you. I'm goin' to have you. Coffin is dead these ten years. When I
heard he was drowned off there in Singapore, all I could say was: 'Serve
him right!' And I say it now. I come home then more determined to get
you. Say yes, and let's be happy. Do!"

"I can't, Nat."

"Why not? For Heaven sakes! why not? Don't you care for me? You've let
me think--well, at any rate, I have thought you did. You used to. Don't
you?"

"Nat, I--I care for you more than anybody else on earth. But I can't
marry you. Oh, don't keep askin' it! Please don't. I can't marry you,
Nat. No!"

"Well, not now, maybe. Not this month, or even this year, perhaps, but
some day--"

"No, Nat. You must listen. There's no use of this goin' on any longer. I
mean it. I can't marry you."

"You won't, you mean."

"Well, if you wish to think so. Then I won't."

"But by and by--"

"No, not by and by. Never, Nat. Never."

He drew his hand across his forehead.

"Never!" he repeated, more to himself than to her.

"Never. Yes, Nat."

"Then, by the everlastin'! I'll do somethin'--"

"No, no, you won't. Nat Hammond, I know you. You're a great big,
brave-hearted, sensible man. You won't be foolish. You'll do--yes, I
think you'd better do just what your father asks you to do. Marry Grace,
if she wants you and will have you. She'll make you a good wife; you'll
learn to care for her, and I know she'll have the best husband that a
girl could hope for. And you and I will be friends, just as we've always
been, and--"

"Keziah, stop that! Stop it, do you hear! I don't want to listen to such
stuff. I tell you I'm past soft soap, and I didn't think you'd give it
to me."

"Nat!"

"Oh, yes, 'Nat'! A lot you care for 'Nat'! Not a reason on God's
footstool why you won't have me--except one, and that one that you don't
want me."

"Please, Nat! I can hardly believe this is you. This trouble with your
father has upset you. You don't mean what you say. You're not talkin'
like yourself and--"

"Stop it, I tell you. I don't feel like myself. I banked on you, Keziah.
I've lived for you. And now--O Keziah, take it back! Give me a little
hope, just enough to keep my head above water."

"I'd like to, Nat. I only wish I could. But 'twouldn't be any use. I
can't do it."

He snatched his hat from the table and strode to the door. Turning, he
looked at her.

"All right," he said chokingly. "All right. Good-by."

His steps sounded on the oilcloth of the kitchen. Then the back door
slammed. He was gone.

Keziah started, as if the slam of the door had been an electric shock.
During the interview she had been pale and grave but outwardly calm. Now
she sank wearily down in the chair from which she had risen and her
head dropped forward upon her arms on the table. The letter she had been
reading before Captain Nat's arrival fell from her waist to the floor
and lay there, its badly spelled and blotted lines showing black
and fateful against the white paper. And she cried, tears of utter
loneliness and despair.

The clouds thickened as the afternoon passed. The setting sun was
hidden behind them; over the horizon of ocean and bay the fog banks were
rolling in tumbled, crumpled masses. The shadows in the lonely sitting
room deepened. There came a knock at the dining-room door.

Keziah sprang from her chair, smoothed her hair, hastily wiped her eyes,
picked up the dropped letter and went to admit the visitor, whoever he
or she might be. She was glad of the shadows, they prevented her face
from being seen too plainly.

"Good afternoon," she said, opening the door. "Oh! it's you, is it?"

"Yes," admitted Abishai Pepper, standing on the stone step, and shifting
uneasily from one foot to the other. "Yes, Keziah, it's--it's me, thank
you."

"Don't mention it. Well, is Laviny with you?"

"No--o, she ain't. She--she didn't come."

"Hum! Did she know you was comin'?"

"No--o, I don't cal'late she did."

"I see. Well, what do you want?"

Mrs. Coffin's welcome was not too cordial. She had laughed many times
over Abishai's proposal of marriage, but she had never quite forgiven
him for making her ridiculous on that occasion. Incidentally, she did
not feel like laughing.

"What do you want?" she repeated.

Kyan was plainly nervous.

"I only wanted to see Mr. Ellery," he announced. "It's all right,
Keziah. You needn't be afraid."

"Afraid! What on earth should I be afraid of?"

"Why--why, I didn't know but you might be afraid I was goin' to--to talk
about what we talked about when I--I talked to you that day up at--"

"There! that'll do. It ain't me that would have reason to be afraid if
THAT was what you come for. What do you want? Don't stand there dancin'
a jig."

"I only wanted to see Mr. Ellery."

"He's out. Good day."

"But I won't keep him but a minute."

"He's out, I tell you. Do you want to leave a message?"

"No--o. No, I guess not."

"Was it important?"

"Oh! I don't know. Kind of, maybe. I wanted to ask his advice about
somethin'. It's a secret. Only him and me know about it. Good-by."

"Shall I tell him you'll call again? Or ask him to come up to your
house?"

Mr. Pepper, who had started to go, now hurried back to the steps.

"No, no," he protested, in alarm. "Don't you tell him that. I wouldn't
have him come there for no money. Why, Laviny, she--"

"Oh, Laviny isn't in the secret, then?" Keziah smiled in spite of
herself.

"Not exactly. That is, not much. Don't you tell her I come here, will
you? I'll find Mr. Ellery. I know where he is."

"I wouldn't go to the Danielses', if I was you. Elkanah might not like
to have you chasin' after his visitors."

"Oh, the minister ain't at the Danielses', not as late's this, he ain't.
I know where he is."

"You do?" The housekeeper looked at him keenly.

"Yes, sir, I do. I know where he goes Sunday afternoons--and why he
goes, too. Mr. Ellery and me's good friends. We understand each other."

"Look here, Kyan Pepper! What are you talkin' about?"

"Nothin', nothin'. Good day."

"Stop! Stand still! Come in the house here. I want you to."

"No, no, Keziah. Really, I'd love to, but I can't stop."

"Come in, I tell you."

Reluctantly, but lacking the strength of mind to refuse, Mr. Pepper
entered the dining room. Then Mrs. Coffin turned upon him.

"What do you mean," she demanded, "by throwin' out hints that the
minister and you are in some sort of secret? How dare you go round
tellin' people such yarns as that?"

"They ain't yarns. And I never told nobody afore, anyhow. I got to move
along. I'll--"

"Stay where you are. I guess I'll run right up and ask your sister about
this. Perhaps she might--"

"Ss-sh! ss-sh! don't talk that way, Keziah. Don't! Laviny don't know
what I mean. Don't go askin' HER things."

"But you said--"

"I just said I knew where Mr. Ellery goes every Sunday afternoon. He
don't know anybody knows, but I do. That's all there is to it. I shan't
tell. So--"

"Tell? Do you mean there's somethin' Mr. Ellery wouldn't want told?
Don't you dare--I WILL see Laviny!"

"No, no, no, no! 'Tain't nothin' much. I just know where he goes after
he leaves Elkanah's and who he goes to meet. I--Lordy! I hadn't ought to
said that! I--Keziah Coffin, don't you ever tell I told you. I've said
more'n I meant to. If it comes out there'd be the biggest row in the
church that ever was. And I'd be responsible! I would! I'd have to go
on the witness stand and then Laviny'd find out how I--Oh, oh, oh! what
SHALL I do?"

The poor frightened creature's "jig" had, by this time, become a
distracted fandango. But the housekeeper had no mercy on him. She was
beginning to fear for her parson and, for the time, everything else, her
own trouble and the recent interview with Nat, was pushed aside.

"What is it?" she persisted. "WHAT would bring on the row in the church?
WHO does Mr. Ellery meet? Out with it! What do you mean?"

"I mean that the minister meets that Van Horne girl every Sunday
afternoon after he leaves Elkanah's. There, now! It's out, and I don't
give a darn if they hang me for it."

Keziah turned white. She seized Mr. Pepper by the lapel of his Sunday
coat and shook him.

"Grace Van Horne!" she cried. "Mr. Ellery meets Grace Van Horne on
Sunday afternoons? Where?"

"Down in them pines back of Peters's pastur', on the aidge of the
bank over the beach. He's met her there every Sunday for the last six
weeks--longer, for what I know. I've watched 'em."

"You HAVE? YOU have! You've dared to spy on--I think you're lyin' to me.
I don't believe it."

"I ain't lyin'! It's so. I'll bet you anything they're there now,
walkin' up and down and talkin'. What would I want to lie for? You come
with me this minute and I'll show 'em to you."

In the desire to prove his veracity he was on his way to the door. But
Keziah stepped in front of him.

"'Bish Pepper," she said slowly and fiercely, shaking a forefinger in
his face, "you go straight home and stay there. Don't you breathe a word
to a livin' soul of what you say you've seen. Don't you even think it,
or--or dream it. If you do I'll--I'll march straight to Laviny and tell
her that you asked me to marry you. I will, as sure as you're shakin' in
front of me this minute. Now you swear to me to keep still. Swear!"

"How--HOW'll I swear?" begged Kyan. "What do you say when you swear?
I'll say it, Keziah! I'll say anything! I'll--"

"All right. Then mind you remember. Now clear out quick. I want to
think. I MUST think. GO! Get out of my sight!"

Kyan went, glad to escape, but frightened to the soul of him. Keziah
watched him until he turned from the main road into the lighthouse lane.
Then, certain that he really was going straight home, she re-entered
the parsonage and sat down in the nearest chair. For ten minutes she sat
there, striving to grasp the situation. Then she rose and, putting on
her bonnet and shawl, locked the dining-room door, and went out through
the kitchen. On the step she looked cautiously back to see if any of the
neighbors were at their windows. But this was Sunday, the one day when
Trumet people sat in their front parlors. The coast was clear. She
hurried through the back yard, and down the path leading across the
fields. She was going to the pine grove by the shore, going to find out
for herself if Kyan's astonishing story was true.

For if it was true, if the Rev. John Ellery was meeting clandestinely
the adopted daughter of Eben Hammond, it meant--what might it not mean,
in Trumet? If he had fallen in love with a Come-Outer, with Grace Van
Horne of all people, if he should dare think of marrying her, it would
mean the utter wreck of his career as a Regular clergyman. His own
society would turn him out instantly. All sorts of things would be said,
lies and scandal would be invented and believed. His character would be
riddled by the Trumet gossips and the papers would publish the result
broadcast.

And Grace! If she loved a Regular minister, what would happen to her?
Captain Eben would turn her from his door, that was certain. Although
he idolized the girl, Keziah knew that he would never countenance such
a marriage. And if Nat stood by Grace, as he would be almost sure to do,
the breach between father and son would widen beyond healing. If it were
merely a matter of personal selection, Mrs. Coffin would rather have
seen her parson marry Grace than anyone else on earth. As it was, such
a match must not be. It meant ruin for both. She must prevent the affair
going further. She must break off the intimacy. She must save those two
young people from making a mistake which would--She wrung her hands as
she thought of it. Of her own sorrow and trouble she characteristically
thought nothing now. Sacrifice of self was a part of Keziah's nature.

The pines were a deep-green blotch against the cloudy sky and the gloomy
waters of the bay. She skirted the outlying clumps of bayberry and beach
plum bushes and entered the grove. The pine needles made a soft carpet
which deadened her footfalls, and the shadows beneath the boughs were
thick and black. She tiptoed on until she reached the clearing by the
brink of the bluff. No one was in sight. She drew a breath of relief.
Kyan might be mistaken, after all.

Then she heard low voices. As she crouched at the edge of the grove, two
figures passed slowly across the clearing, along the bush-bordered path
and into the shrubbery beyond. John Ellery was walking with Grace
Van Horne. He was holding her hand in his and they were talking very
earnestly.

Keziah did not follow. What would have been the use? This was not the
time to speak. She KNEW now and she knew, also, that the responsibility
was hers. She must go home at once, go home to be alone and to think.
She tiptoed back through the grove and across the fields.

Yet, if she had waited, she might have seen something else which would
have been, at least, interesting. She had scarcely reached the outer
edge of the grove when another figure passed stealthily along that
narrow path by the bluff edge. A female figure treading very carefully,
rising to peer over the bushes at the minister and Grace. The figure of
Miss Annabel Daniels, the "belle" of Trumet. And Annabel's face was not
pleasant to look upon.


CHAPTER XI

IN WHICH CAPTAIN EBEN RECEIVES A CALLER


At the edge of the bluff, just where the pines and the bayberry bushes
were thickest, where the narrow, crooked little footpath dipped over the
rise and down to the pasture land and the salt meadow, John Ellery
and Grace had halted in their walk. It was full tide and the miniature
breakers plashed amid the seaweed on the beach. The mist was drifting in
over the bay and the gulls were calling sleepily from their perch along
the breakwater. A night hawk swooped and circled above the tall "feather
grass" by the margin of the creek. The minister's face was pale, but set
and determined, and he was speaking rapidly.

"I can't help it," he said. "I can't help it. I have made up my mind and
nothing can change it, nothing but you. It rests with you. If you say
yes, then nothing else matters. Will you say it?"

He was holding both her hands now, and though she tried to withdraw
them, he would not let her.

"Will you?" he pleaded.

"I can't," she answered brokenly. "I can't. Think of your church and of
your people. What would they say if--"

"I don't care what they say."

"Oh! yes, you do. Not now, perhaps, but later you will. You don't know
Trumet as I know it. No, it's impossible."

"I tell you there is only one impossible thing. That is that I give you
up. I won't do it. I CAN'T do it! Grace, this is life and death for me.
My church--"

He paused in spite of himself. His church, his first church! He had
accepted the call with pride and a determination to do his best, the
very best that was in him, for the society and for the people whom he
was to lead. Some of those people he had learned to love; many of them,
he felt sure, loved him. His success, his popularity, the growth of the
organization and the praise which had come to him because of it, all
these had meant, and still meant, very much to him. No wonder he paused,
but the pause was momentary.

"My church," he went on, "is my work and I like it. I believe I've done
some good here and I hope to do more. But no church shall say whom I
shall marry. If you care for me, Grace, as I think and hope you do,
we'll face the church and the town together, and they will respect us
for it."

She shook her head.

"Some of them might respect you," she said. "They would say you had been
led into this by me and were not so much to blame. But I--"

"They shall respect my wife," he interrupted, snapping his teeth
together, "or I'll know the reason why."

She smiled mournfully.

"I think they'll tell you the reason," she answered. "No, John, no!
we mustn't think of it. You can see we mustn't. This has all been a
mistake, a dreadful mistake, and I am to blame for it."

"The only mistake has been our meeting in this way. We should have met
openly; I realize it, and have felt it for sometime. It was my fault,
not yours. I was afraid, I guess. But I'll not be a coward any longer.
Come, dear, let's not be afraid another day. Only say you'll marry me
and I'll proclaim it openly, to-night--Yes, from the pulpit, if you say
so."

She hesitated and he took courage from her hesitation.

"Say it," he pleaded. "You WILL say it?"

"I can't! I can't! My uncle--"

"Your uncle shall hear it from me. We'll go to him together. I'll tell
him myself. He worships you."

"Yes, I know. He does worship me. That's why I am sure he had rather see
me dead than married to you, a Regular, and a Regular minister."

"I don't believe it. He can't be so unreasonable. If he is, then you
shouldn't humor such bigotry."

"He has been my father for years, and a dear, kind father."

"I know. That's why I'm so certain we can make him understand. Come,
dear! come! Why should you consider everyone else? Consider your own
happiness. Consider mine."

She looked at him.

"I am considering yours," she said. "That is what I consider most of
all. And, as for uncle, I know--I KNOW he would never consent. His heart
is set on something else. Nat--"

"Nat? Are you considering him, too? Is HE to stand between us? What
right has he to say--"

"Hush! hush! He hasn't said anything. But--but he and uncle have
quarreled, just a little. I didn't tell you, but they have. And I think
I know the reason. Nat is Uncle Eben's idol. If the quarrel should grow
more serious, I believe it would break his heart. I couldn't bear to be
the cause of that; I should never forgive myself."

"You the cause? How could you be the cause of a quarrel between those
two? Grace, think of me."

Here was the selfishness of man and the unselfishness of woman answered.

"John," she said, "it is of you I am thinking. Everything else
could--might be overcome, perhaps. But I must think of your future and
your life. I MUST. That is why--"

He did not wait to hear more. He seized her in his arms and kissed her.

"Then you DO care!" he cried joyfully. "You will marry me?"

For an instant she lay quiet in his embrace, receiving, if not
responding to his caresses. Then she gently but firmly freed herself. He
saw that there were tears in her eyes.

"Grace," he urged, "don't--don't hesitate any longer. You were meant to
be my wife. We were brought together for just that. I know it. Come."

She was crying softly.

"Won't you?" he begged.

"I don't know," she sobbed. "Oh, I don't know! I must think--I MUST!
Wait, please wait, John. Perhaps by to-morrow I can answer. I'll
try--I'll try. Don't ask me again, now. Let me think. Oh, do!"

Doubtless he would have asked her again. He looked as if he meant to.
But just then, drifting through the twilight and the mist, came the
sound of a bell, the bell of the Regular church, ringing for the Sunday
evening meeting. They both heard it.

"Oh!" exclaimed Grace, "that is your bell. You will be late. You must
go, and so must I. Good night."

She started down the path. He hesitated, then ran after her.

"To-morrow?" he questioned eagerly. "Tomorrow, then, you'll say that you
will?"

"Oh, perhaps, perhaps! I mustn't promise. Good night."

It was after seven when Grace reached the old tavern. The housekeeper,
Mrs. Poundberry, was anxiously awaiting her. She wore her bonnet and
Sunday gown and was evidently ready to go out.

"Land sakes alive!" she sputtered. "Where in the name of goodness have
you been to? I was gettin' scairt. Didn't know but you'd run off and got
married, or sunthin' dreadful."

Grace was thankful that the cloudy twilight made it impossible to see
her face distinctly. The housekeeper rattled on without waiting for an
answer.

"Supper's on the table and the kittle's abilin'. You better eat in a
hurry, 'cause it's meetin' time now. Your uncle, he started ten minutes
ago. I'm agoin' right along, too, but I ain't goin' to meetin'; I'm
agoin' up to Betsy E.'s to stay all night. She's got a spine in her
back, as the feller said, and ain't feelin' good, so I told her I'd come
and stay a little spell. S'pose you can get along to-morrow without me?"

"Betsy E." was Mrs. Poundberry's second cousin, an elderly spinster
living alone in a little house near the salt works. Grace assured her
questioner that she could attend to the house and the meals during the
following day, longer if the troublesome "spine" needed company. Mrs.
Poundberry sighed, groaned, and shook her head.

"I shan't stay no longer," she affirmed; "not if Betsy's all over
spines, like one of them Mexican cactus plants. No, marm, my place is
right here and I know it. Your Uncle Eben's mighty feeble and peaked
lately. He ain't long for this world, I'm afraid. You'd ought to be
awful good to him, Gracie."

"I know it," was the hurried reply. "Where's Nat?"

"I don't know. Can't keep track of HIM. Might's well try to put your
finger on a flea. He's here to-day and gone yesterday, as the Scriptur'
says. He ate a little mite of supper, but not much, and then off he
puts. Says he's goin' to walk the fog out'n his head. I told him, s' I,
'You'll walk a plaguey sight more in than you do out, THIS night,'
but he went just the same. He was dreadful kind of dumpy and blue this
evenin'. Seemed to be sort of soggy in his mind. And why he never went
to meetin' with his dad and why his dad never asked him TO go is more'n
I can tell. Land of livin', how I do gabble! My grandmarm used to say
my tongue was loose at both ends and hung in the middle, and I guess she
wa'n't fur off the course. Good-by. Take care of yourself. You can put
what's left of that mock mince pie on the top shelf in the butt'ry and
you'd better heave a dish towel or sunthin' over it to keep the ants
out. There's more ants in this house than there is dollars, a good
sight. Betsy B., she's got a plan for keepin' of 'em out by puttin'
sassers of brimstone round the shelves, but I told her, s' I, 'THEM ants
don't care for no brimstone. They're used to it. Sometimes I b'lieve
they're sent by the everlastin' father of brimstone,' and she--"

She had reached the gate by this time, and Grace shut off the flow of
conversation by closing the door. Then she took a candle from the row
on the dining-room mantel, lighted it, and went up to her own room.
Standing before the old-fashioned bureau with its little oval mirror,
she hastily arranged her hair. She did not wish to go to the prayer
meeting at the chapel, but she felt that she must. The Come-Outer
gatherings, with their noisy singing and shouting, had grown more and
more repugnant to her.

And to-night, of all nights! How could she meet those people who had
known her since she was a child, who boasted of her as one of their
staunchest adherents, who believed in her and trusted her? How could she
meet them and talk with them, knowing what she knew and realizing that
they, too, would know it on the morrow? But her uncle would miss her and
be worried about her if she did not come. She could not bear to trouble
him now; she never loved him so dearly, was never so anxious to humor
his every wish as on this, perhaps the last evening they would spend
together. For, though she would not yet admit it, even to herself, her
decision was made, had really been made the first time John Ellery asked
her weeks before. Only the thought of what might happen to him if she
consented had caused her to hesitate so long.

She blew out the candle and came out into the hall at the head of the
stairs. She was about to descend when she heard voices. The door of the
dining room opened and closed. She felt certain that Nat had returned
and wondered who was with him. Then she heard her uncle's voice,
speaking sharply and with unwonted sternness.

"I don't know what 'tis you want to see me about," said Captain Eben.
"You say it's important; well, it's got to be to keep me from my
meetin'. I ought to be on the Lord's business this minute and nothin'
worldly's goin' to keep me from servin' Him. So speak quick. What is
it?"

The voice that answered was one that Grace recognized, though she
had never before heard in it the note of agitation and undignified
excitement. There were no ponderous pauses and "Hum--ha's" now.

"Don't be a fool, Hammond!" it said. "And don't stand there preaching.
Lock that door! Get a lamp! Are you sure there's nobody but us in the
house?"

Captain Elkanah Daniels! Captain Elkanah visiting a Come-Outer! and
the leader of the Come-Outers!! Grace caught her breath. What in the
world--She started to descend and then a thought flashed to her mind.
She stopped short.

"I ain't the fool, Elkanah," she heard her uncle retort sternly. "The
fools are them who are deef to the call from on high. My foot was on the
threshold of His house when you led me astray. It's never halted there
afore. I warn you--"

"Hush! Shut up! Can't you forget that--that Come-Outer circus of yours
for a minute?"

"Elkanah Daniels, I'll have no blasphemy here. Another word like that
and--"

"WILL you be still and hear me? The Lord's business! I guess you'll
think it's the Lord's business when you understand what I'm going to
tell you! The Lord's business! The devil's business, you better say!
Will you lock that door?"

"My church is waitin' for me and--"

"Let it wait. What's a parcel of yelling Come-Outers compared to the
decency of this town? Stop! Shut up! Eben Hammond, I tell you that your
precious church--yes and mine, the Regular church of Trumet--will go to
rack and ruin if you and me don't pull together this night."

"And I tell you, Elkanah Daniels, I'll have no blasphemy here. That
little sanctuary up the road is founded on a rock and neither you
nor any of your Phariseein' priest-worshipin' crew can shake it. The
Almighty'll protect His own. As for the Reg'lar church, that's no
concern of mine."

"But I tell you 'tis your concern. Or if the church isn't, your own
family is."

"My--my family?"

"Yes, your own family. Huh! that makes you listen, don't it?"

There was an instant of silence. Grace, crouching on the stairs, noticed
the change in her uncle's voice as he answered.

"My own family?" he repeated slowly. "My own--And the Reg'lar
church--What do you mean? Has Nat--"

"No, he ain't. But that cussed girl of yours--"

"Stop!" Eben's shout rang through the house. The listener heard it,
rose, and then sank slowly to her knees.

"Stop!" shouted Captain Hammond. "Elkanah Daniels, for your own sake
now, be careful. If you dast to say a word, another word like that,
I'll--"

"If I dast! The hussy! But there's no use talkin' to you. You're as
crazy as a Bedlamite. Either that, or you're in the game with her. If
you are, I warn you--"

"Stop! What game? What do you mean? Gracie! My Grace! What is it? For
mercy sakes, Elkanah--"

"Humph! I wondered if I couldn't get some sense into you, finally. Lock
that door!"

"I will! I will! But Elkanah--"

"Lock it! Give me the key!"

The click of the lock sounded sharply.

"Where's the lamp?" demanded Daniels. "And the matches? Don't stand
there shaking."

A smell of sulphur floated out into the hall. Then the sickly glow of
the "fluid" lamp shone through the doorway.

"What ails you?" asked Elkanah. "Are you struck dumb? Now go and see if
there's anybody else in the house."

"But--but there ain't. I know there ain't. Hannah's gone and Gracie's at
meetin' by this time."

"She? Humph! Well, maybe she's at meeting and maybe she isn't. Maybe
she's over in Peters's pines, hugging and kissing that man she's met
there every Sunday for I don't know how long--Here! let go, you old
fool! Let go, I tell you!"

A chair fell to the floor with a bang. There was the sound of hard
breathing and rapid footsteps.

"Let go!" panted Daniels. "Are you crazy? Take your hands off me!"

"You liar!" snarled Captain Eben. "You low-lived liar! By the Almighty,
Elkanah Daniels! I'll--You take that back or I'll choke the everlastin'
soul out of you. I will--"

"Let go, you lunatic! You'll kill yourself. Listen! I'm not lying. It's
the truth. She's met a man, I tell you. Been meeting him for months, I
guess. There! now will you listen?"

The footsteps had ceased, but the heavy breathing continued.

"A man!" gasped Eben. "A man! Gracie! It's a--Who is he? What's his
name?"

"His name's John Ellery, and he's minister of the Regular church in this
town; that's who he is! Here! hold up! Good Lord! are you dying? Hold
up!"

The girl on the stairs sprang to her feet. Her head was reeling and she
could scarcely stand, but she blindly began the descent. She must go to
her uncle. She must. But Captain Daniels's voice caused her to halt once
more.

"There! there!" it said in a tone of relief. "That's better. Set still
now. Be quiet, that's it. Shall I get some water?"

"No, no! let me be. Just let me be. I ain't what I used to be and
this--I'm all right, I tell you. Grace! And--and--What was it you just
said? I--I don't b'lieve I heard it right."

"I said that daughter of yours, or niece, or whatever she is, this Grace
Van Horne, has been meeting young Ellery, our minister, in Peters's
grove. Been meeting him and walking with him, and kissing him, and--"

"It's a lie! It ain't so, Elkanah! Prove it or--It--it CAN'T be so, can
it? Please--"

"It is so. She's met him in those pines every Sunday afternoon for a
long time. She was seen there with him this afternoon."

"Who--who saw her?"

"Never mind. The one that did'll never tell--unless it's necessary.
They're fixing to be married, and--"

"MARRIED! She marry a Reg'lar minister! Oh--"

"Hush! Listen! They ain't married yet. We can stop 'em, you and I, if we
get right to work. It isn't too late. Will you help?"

"Will I--I--Go on! tell me more."

"We can stop 'em. I know it would be a good catch for her, the sneaking,
designing--Well, never mind. But it can't be. It shan't be. You've got
to tell her so, Hammond. We folks of the Regular church have pride in
our society; we won't have it disgraced. And we have been proud of our
minister, the young, rattle-headed fool! We'll save him if we can. If
we can't"--the speaker's teeth grated--"then we'll send him to eternal
smash or die trying."

"But I can't believe it's true. It's a mistake; some other girl and not
Gracie. Why, she don't even know him. She wouldn't--But she HAS been out
every Sunday afternoon for weeks. If it SHOULD be!"

"It is. I tell you it is. Don't waste time rolling your eyes and talking
stuff. We've got to work and you've got to work first. I don't know
whether you're only making believe or not. I realize that 'twould be
a good thing for your girl to marry a promising young chap like him,
but--Hush! let me go on. I tell you, Hammond, it can't be. We won't let
her. I won't let her. I'm a man of influence in this town, and outside
of it, too. I'm head of the parish committee and a member of the
National Regular Society. I can't reach your precious ward, maybe, but I
can reach the fellow she's after, and if he marries her, I'll drive 'em
both to the poorhouse.

"Here's where you come in, Hammond. It may be she does really care for
him. Or maybe she's after position and money. Well, you talk to her. You
tell her that if she keeps on going with him, if she doesn't break off
this damnable business now, tomorrow, I'll ruin John Ellery as sure as
I'm a living man. He'll be ruined in Trumet, anyhow. He'll be thrown out
by the parish committee. I'm not sure that his church people won't
tar and feather him. Marrying a low-down Come-Outer hussy! As if there
wa'n't decent girls of good families he might have had! But losing this
church won't be the only thing that'll happen to him. The committee'll
see that he doesn't get another one. I'll use my influence and have him
thrown out of the Regular ministry. Think I can't? What sort of yarns
do you suppose will be told about him and her, meeting the way they did?
Won't the county papers print some fine tales? Won't the Boston ones
enjoy such a scandal? I tell you, Eben Hammond, that young chap's name
will be dragged so deep in the mud it'll never get clean again."

He stopped for breath. His companion was silent. After a moment, he
continued:

"You tell her that, Hammond," he went on. "If she really cares for him,
it'll be enough. She won't let him ruin his life. And I'll keep quiet
till I hear from you. If she's sensible and really decent, then she can
give him his clearance papers without his knowing why she did it and
everything will be a secret and kept so. Nobody else'll ever know. If
she won't do that, then you tell me and I'll have a session with HIM.
If THAT'S no good, then out he goes and she with him; and it's ruination
for both of 'em, reputations and all. Why am I doing this? I'll tell
you. I like him. He isn't orthodox enough to suit me, but I have liked
him mighty well. And Annab--Humph! that's neither here nor there. What
I'm fighting for is the Trumet Regular church. That's MY church and
I'll have no dirty scandal with Come-Outers dragging it down. Now you
understand. Will you tell her what I've said?"

The chair creaked. Evidently, Captain Eben was rising slowly to his
feet.

"Well?" repeated Elkanah.

"Elkanah Daniels," said Eben slowly, his voice shaking from nervous
exhaustion and weakness, but with a fine ring of determination in every
word, "Elkanah Daniels, you listen to me. I've heard you through. If
your yarn is true, then my heart is broke, and I wish I might have died
afore I heard it. But I didn't die and I have heard it. Now listen to
me. I love that girl of mine better'n the whole wide world and yet
I'd ruther see her dead afore me than married to a Reg'lar minister.
Disgrace to HIM! Disgrace to your miser'ble church! What about the
disgrace to MINE? And the disgrace to HER? Ruin to your minister! Ruin
to my girl here and hereafter is what I'm thinkin' of; that and my
people who worship God with me. I'll talk to Grace. I'll talk to
her. But not of what'll happen to him or you--or any of your cantin',
lip-servin' crew. I'll tell her to choose between him and me. And if she
chooses him, I'll send her out of that door. I'll do my duty and read
her out of my congregation. And I'll know she's gone to everlastin'
hell, and that's worse'n the poorhouse. That's all to-night, Elkanah.
Now you better go."

"Humph! Well, I declare! you ARE a bigoted--"

"Stop it! I've kept my hands off you so fur, because I'm the Lord's
servant. But I'm fightin' hard to keep down my old salt-water temper.
You go! There's the door."

"All right, all right! I don't care what you say, so long as it's said
so as to stop her from getting him--and said soon."

"It'll be said to-night. Now go! My people are waitin' at the chapel."

"You're not going to that prayer meeting after THIS?"

"Where else should I go? 'Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy
laden.' And--and"--his voice broke--"He knows that I AM heavy laden.
Lord! Lord! do help me, for this is more'n I can bear alone."

The lock turned; the door opened and closed. Grace, clinging to the
balusters, heard Captain Hammond cross the room, slowly and feebly.
She heard him enter the sitting room. Then she heard nothing more,
not another sound, though the minutes dragged on and on, endlessly,
eternally, and each with a message, a sentence repeated over and over
again in her brain. "If she really cares for him, she won't let him ruin
his life."

By and by, pale, but more composed, and with her mind made up, she came
down into the hall. Drawing a long breath, she turned into the sitting
room to face her uncle. By the light shining through the dining-room
door she saw him on his knees by the haircloth sofa. She spoke his name.
He did not answer nor look up. Alarmed, she touched him on the shoulder.
At her touch his arm slid from the couch and he fell gently over upon
his side on the carpet.


CHAPTER XII

IN WHICH CAPTAIN EBEN MAKES PORT


Half past eight. In the vestry of the Regular church John Ellery was
conducting his prayer meeting. The attendance was as large as usual.
Three seats, however, were vacant, and along the settees people were
wondering where Captain Elkanah Daniels and his daughter might be. They
had not missed a service for many a day. And where was Keziah Coffin?

At the Come-Outer chapel the testifying and singing were in full blast.
But Ezekiel Bassett was leading, for Captain Eben Hammond had not
made his appearance. Neither had Grace Van Horne, for that matter, but
Captain Eben's absence was the most astonishing.

"Somethin's the matter," whispered Josiah Badger to his right-hand
neighbor. "Somethin's wrong d-d-d-down to the tavern, sartin' sure.
I'm goin' down there just soon's meetin's over and f-f-f-find out.
Eben wouldn't no more miss leadin' his meetin' from choice than I'd go
without a meal's v-v-vi-vittles. Somethin's happened and I'm goin' to
know what 'tis. You'll go along with me, won't ye, Lot?"

The answer was an affirmative. In fact, almost every worshiper in that
chapel had determined to visit the Hammond tavern as soon as the service
was at an end.


In the Regular parsonage Keziah sat alone by the sitting-room table.
Prayer meeting and supper she had forgotten entirely. The minister
had not come home for his evening meal, and food was furthest from the
housekeeper's thoughts. What should she do? What ought she to do? How
could she avert the disaster so certain to overwhelm those two young
people the moment their secret became known?

It was in vain that she tried to encourage herself with the hope that
Kyan had exaggerated--that the meetings in the grove had not been as
frequent as he said they were, or that they had been merely casual.
She knew better. She had seen the pair together and the look in John
Ellery's eyes. No, the mischief was done, they loved each other; or, at
least, he loved her. There was the great trouble.

Keziah, in spite of her worldly common sense, was an idealist at heart.
Love matches she believed in thoroughly. If the man had not been a
Regular minister, or if he had been a minister in any other town than
narrow, gossiping, squabbling Trumet, where families were divided on
"religious" grounds, neighbors did not speak because their creeds were
different, and even after death were buried in cemeteries three miles
apart; if the girl had been other than the ward of bigoted old Eben
Hammond--then, though they were poor as poverty itself, Keziah would
have joined their hands and rejoiced. Even as it was, she was strongly
tempted to do it. Her sense of right and her every inclination urged her
toward that course. "Face the world together and fight it out," that
was the advice she would like to give them. But no, the battle was too
uneven. The odds were too great. They must not think of marriage, for
the present, and they must cease to meet. Perhaps some day--she tried to
comfort herself with the thought--perhaps some day, years afterwards and
under different circumstances, they might.

--With Ellery she felt certain she could accomplish nothing by argument
or persuasion. She knew him well enough by this time to realize that, if
his mind was made up, all Trumet and all creation could not change it.
He would keep on his course, and, if wrecked, would go down with colors
set and helm lashed. But Grace, perhaps she did not fully realize the
situation. She might be made to see, to listen to reason. And, perhaps,
it was possible--perhaps, on her part, matters were not as serious. The
minister had not acted like a triumphant lover, assured of success;
he had seemed, now that she thought of it, more like a pleader, a
supplicant. Perhaps, if she could see Grace and talk plainly with the
girl, it might not be too late. She determined to try that very night.

She rose and again donned her bonnet and shawl. She was about to blow
out the lamp when she heard rapid footsteps, the sound of some one
running along the sidewalk in front of the house. As she listened, the
footsteps sounded on the path. Whoever the runner was he was coming to
the parsonage. She stepped to the door and opened it.

The runner was a boy, Maria Higgins's boy Isaac, whose widowed mother
lived down by the shore. He did the chores at the Hammond tavern. His
freckled face was dripping with perspiration and he puffed and blew like
a stranded whale.

"What's the matter, Ike?" demanded Keziah. "What is it?"

"Have ye--have ye," panted Ike, "have ye seen the doctor anywheres, Mis
Coffin?"

"Who? Dr. Parker? Have I seen--what in the world are you comin' HERE
after the doctor for?"

"'Cause--'cause I didn't know where else to come. I been to his house
and he ain't to home. Nobody ain't to home. His wife, Mis Parker, she's
gone up to Boston yes'day on the coach, and--and it's all dark and the
house door's open and the shay's gone, so--"

"Who's sick? Who wants him?"

"And--and--all the rest of the houses round here was shut up 'cause
everybody's to meetin'. I peeked in at the meetin' house and he ain't
there, and I see your light and--"

"Who's sick? Tell me that, won't you?"

"Cap'n Eben. He's awful sick. I cal'late he's goin' to die, and Gracie,
she--"

"Cap'n Eben? Eben Hammond! Dyin'? What are you talkin' about?"

"Huh! huh!" puffed the messenger impatiently. "Didn't I tell ye? Cap'n
Eben's adyin'. I seen him. All white and still and--and awful. And
Gracie, she's all alone and--"

"Alone? Where's Nat?"

"She don't know. He ain't to home. But I got to find Dr. Parker."

"Hold on! Stop! I'll tell you where the doctor is most likely. Up to
Mrs. Prince's. She's been poorly and he's prob'ly been called there.
Run! run fast as ever you can and get him and I'll go to Grace this
minute. The poor thing! Have you told anybody else?"

"No, no! ain't seen nobody but you to tell. They was prayin' over to
meetin', and the fellers that waits outside to keep comp'ny with the
girls ain't got there yet. And I never met nobody. And 'twas so blasted
dark I fell down four times and tore my best pants and--"

"S-sh-sh! Listen to me! Don't tell anybody. Not a soul but the doctor.
Half this town'll be runnin' to find out if you do, and that poor girl
must be distracted already. I'll go to her. You get Dr. Parker and tell
him to hurry."

"I'll tell him; don't you fret."

He was gone, running harder than ever. A moment later Keziah followed
him, running also.

It was a misty, black night, and Trumet sidewalks were uneven and hard
to navigate. But she stumbled on, up the main road to the Corners, down
the "Turn-off," past the chapel of the Come-Outers, from the open window
of which sounded the drone of a high, nasal voice. Josiah Badger was
"testifying," and Keziah caught a fragment of the testimony as she
hurried by.

"I says to 'em, says I, I says to 'em, 'I don't care about your smart
mum-mum-minister and what fine sermons he preaches. Let him BE smart,' I
says. Says I, 'Smartness won't g-g-g-git ye into heaven.' ("Amen!") 'No,
sirree! it takes more'n that. I've seen smart folks afore and they got
c-c-cuk-catched up with sooner or later. Pride goes ahead of a tumble,
I've heard tell, and--"

This was all that Keziah heard of Mr. Badger's testimony, for, as she
ran on, a rattle of wheels and the thud of hoofs came from behind her.
Then a rocking chaise, drawn by a galloping horse, shot by. Dr. Parker's
carriage, she was sure. The Higgins boy must have met the doctor and
delivered his message.

The horse and chaise were standing by the front gate of the tavern as
she pantingly drew near it. The side door of the house was ajar and she
opened it softly and entered. The dining room was empty. There was a
light on the sitting-room table and low voices came from the little
bedroom adjoining. Then, from the bedroom, emerged Dr. Parker and Grace
Van Horne. The girl was white and there were dark circles under her
eyes. The doctor was very grave.

Keziah stepped forward and held out both hands. Grace looked, recognized
her, and with a cry ran toward her. Keziah took her in her arms and
soothed her as if she were a child.

"There! there! deary," she said, stroking her hair. "There! there!
deary, don't take it so hard. Poor thing! you're worn out. If I'd only
known sooner."

"O Aunt Keziah!" sobbed the girl. "I'm so glad you've come. It was so
good of you."

"Good! Land of mercy! If I hadn't come, I'd have been worse than the
beasts that perish. Don't cry, don't. How is he now? Some better?"

She looked at the doctor as she asked it. He shook his head
emphatically.

"Well, well, dear," went on Mrs. Coffin hurriedly. "He will be pretty
soon, we'll hope. You mustn't give up the ship, you know. Now you go and
lay down somewheres and I'll get my things off and see what there is to
do. Some good strong tea might be good for all hands, I guess likely.
Where's Hannah Poundberry?"

"She's gone to her cousin's to stay all night. I suppose I ought to send
for her, but I--"

"No, no, you hadn't. Might's well send for a poll parrot, the critter
would be just as much good and talk less. I'll look out for things, me
and the doctor. Where's--where's Nat?"

"He came in just after I sent the boy for the doctor. He's in there
with--with him," indicating the bedroom. "Poor Nat!"

Keziah looked longingly toward the door.

"Yes," she said slowly. "Poor fellow, it's an awful shock to him. He and
his father are--But there! you lay down on that lounge."

"I can't lie down. I can't do anything but think. Oh, what a dreadful
day this has been! And I thought it was going to be such a happy one!"

"Yes, yes, deary, I know."

Grace raised her head.

"You know?" she repeated, looking up into the housekeeper's face.

"I mean I know it's been a dreadful day," explained Keziah quickly.
"Yes, indeed it has," with a sigh. "But there! our moanin' over it don't
cheer it up any. Will you lay down? No? Well, then, SET down, there's a
good girl."

Grace, protesting that she couldn't sit down, she couldn't leave uncle,
and there were so many things to do, was at last persuaded by Keziah and
the doctor to rest for a few moments in the big rocker. Then Mrs. Coffin
went into the kitchen to prepare the tea. As she went, she beckoned to
Dr. Parker, who joined her a moment later.

"Well, doctor?" she asked anxiously.

The stout, gray-haired old physician--he had practiced in Trumet for
nearly thirty years--shook his head.

"Not a single chance," he whispered. "He may possibly live till morning,
but I doubt if he lasts an hour. It's his heart. I've expected it at
any time. Ever since he had that shock, I've been at him to take things
easy; but you might as well talk to a graven image. That Come-Outer
foolishness is what really killed him, though just what brought on this
attack I can't make out. Grace says she found him lying on the floor by
the sofa. He was unconscious then. I'm rather worried about her. She was
very near to fainting when I got here."

"No wonder. All alone in this ark of a house and nobody to help or to
send. Lucky she found that Ike Higgins. Say, I wonder if the young
one's around here now? If he is, he must stand at the gate and scare off
Come-Outers. The whole chapel, mates, crew, and cabin boy, 'll be down
here soon's meetin's over to see what kept Eben. And they mustn't get
in."

"I should say not. I'll hunt up Ike. If a Come-Outer gets into this
house to-night I'll eat him, that's all."

"Some of 'em would give you dyspepsy, I guess. Yes, Grace, I'll be there
in a jiffy."

The doctor left the house to find young Higgins and post him at the
gate. The boy, who had been listening under the window, was proud of his
new responsibility.

"I'll fix 'em, doctor," he declared. "I only hope old Zeke Bassett
comes. He lammed me with a horsewhip t'other day, 'cause I was ridin'
behind his ox cart. If he tried to git by me, I'll bounce a rock off'n
his Sunday hat."

"Doctor," whispered Keziah from the kitchen window. "Doctor, come quick.
Nat wants you."

Captain Nat was standing at the door of the bedroom. His face was drawn
and he had seemingly grown years older since noon.

"He's come to himself, doc," he whispered. "He don't remember how it
happened or anything. And he wants us all. Why! why, Keziah! are you
here?"

"Yes, Nat. I've been here a little while."

He looked at her steadily and his eyes brightened just a trifle.

"Did you come to see me?" he asked. "Was it about what I said this--"

"No, no, Nat; no. I heard the news and that Grace was alone; so I come
right down."

He nodded wearily.

"You can come in, too," he said. "I know dad likes you and I guess--Wait
a minute; I'll ask him." He stepped back into the bedroom. "Yes," he
nodded, returning, "you come, too. He wants you."

The little room, Captain Eben's own, was more like a skipper's cabin
than a chamber on land. A narrow, single bed, a plain washstand, a
battered, painted bureau and a single chair--these made up the list of
furniture. Two pictures, both of schooners under full sail, hung on the
walls. Beside them hung a ship's barometer, a sextant, and a clock that
struck the "bells," instead of the hours as the landsman understands
them. In the corner stood the captain's big boots and his oilskins hung
above them. His Sunday cane was there also. And on the bureau was a
worn, heavy Bible.

Dr. Parker brushed by the others and bent over the bed.

"Well, cap'n," he said cheerily, "how's she headed? How are you feeling
now?"

The old face on the pillow smiled feebly.

"She's headed for home, I guess, doc," said Captain Eben. "Bound for
home, and the harbor light broad abeam, I cal'late."

"Oh, no! you'll make a good many voyages yet."

"Not in this hulk, I won't, doctor. I hope I'll have a new command
pretty soon. I'm trustin' in my owners and I guess they'll do the fair
thing by me. Halloo, Gracie, girl! Well, your old uncle's on his beam
ends, ain't he?"

Grace glanced fearfully at his face. When he spoke her name she shrank
back, as if she feared what he might say. But he only smiled as, with
the tears streaming down her face, she bent over and kissed him.

"There! there!" he protested. "You mustn't cry. What are you cryin'
about me for? We know, you and me, who's been lookin' out for us and
keepin' us on the course all these years. We ain't got anything to cry
for. You just keep on bein' a 'good girl, Gracie, and goin' to the right
church and--I s'pose Ezekiel'll lead in meetin' now," he added. "I do
wish he was a stronger man."

The doctor, whose fingers had been upon the old man's wrist, looked up
at Nat significantly.

"There, dad," said the latter, "don't you worry about Zeke Bassett, nor
anything else. You just lay in dry dock and let Parker here overhaul
your runnin' riggin' and get you fit for sea. That's what you've got to
do."

"I'm fit and ready for the sea I'm goin' to sail," was the answer. His
eyes wandered from his son to Mrs. Coffin. For an instant he seemed
puzzled. Then he said:

"'Evenin', Keziah. I don't know why you're here, but--"

"I heard that Grace was alone and that you was sick, Eben. So I come
right down, to help if I could."

"Thank ye. You're a good-hearted woman, Keziah, even though you
ain't seen the true light yet. And you're housekeeper for that hired
priest--a--a--" He paused, and a troubled look came over his face.

"What is it, dad?" asked Nat.

"I--I--Where's Gracie? She's here, ain't she?"

"Yes, uncle, I'm here. Here I am," said the girl. His fingers groped for
her hand and seized it.

"Yes, yes, you're here," murmured Captain Eben. "I--I--for a minute or
so, I--I had an awful dream about you, Gracie. I dreamed--Never mind.
Doc, answer me this now, true and honest, man to man: Can you keep me
here for just a little spell longer? Can you? Try! Ten minutes, say. Can
you?"

"Of course I can. Cap'n Hammond, what are you--"

"I know. That's all right. But I ain't a young one to be petted and lied
to. I'm a man. I've sailed ships. I've been on blue water. I'm goin' to
make port pretty soon, and I know it, but I want to get my decks clear
fust, if I can. Gracie, stand still. Nat, run alongside where I can see
you plainer. Keziah, you and the doctor stay where you be. I want you to
witness this."

"Cap'n," protested Dr. Parker, "if I were you I wouldn't--"

"Belay! Silence there, for'ard! Nat, you're my boy, ain't you? You set
some store by the old man, hey?"

"I--I guess I do, dad."

"Yes, I guess you do, too. You've been a pretty good boy; stubborn
and pig-headed sometimes, but, take you by and large, pretty good. And
Gracie, you've been a mighty good girl. Never done nothin' I wouldn't
like, nothin' mean nor underhand nor--"

"Hush, uncle! Hush! Please hush!"

"Well, you ain't; so why should I hush? In this--this dream I had, seems
'sif you--seems as if a man come to me and said that you was--It WAS a
dream, wa'n't it?"

He tried to rise. Nat and the doctor started forward. Grace shrank back.

"Of course it was, cap'n," said the doctor briskly. "Now you mustn't
fret yourself in this way. Just lie still and--"

"Belay, I tell you. Yes, I guess 'twas a dream. It had to be, but 'twas
so sort of real that I--How long have I been this way?"

"Oh, a little while! Now just--"

"Hush! Don't pull your hand away, Gracie. Nat, give me yours. That's it.
Now I put them two hands together. See, doctor? See, Keziah?"

"He's wandering. We must stop this," muttered Parker. Mrs. Coffin, who
began to comprehend what was coming, looked fearfully at Nat and the
girl.

"No, I ain't wanderin', neither," declared the old Come-Outer fretfully.
"I'm sane as ever I was and if you try to stop me I'll--Gracie, your
Uncle Eben's v'yage is 'most over. He's almost to his moorin's and
they're waitin' for him on the pier. I--I won't be long now. Just a
little while, Lord! Give me just a little while to get my house in
order. Gracie, I don't want to go till I know you'll be looked out for.
I've spoke to Nat about this, but I ain't said much to you. Seems if I
hadn't, anyhow; I ain't real sartin; my head's all full of bells ringin'
and--and things."

"Don't, uncle, don't!" pleaded Grace. "Don't worry about me. Think of
yourself, please."

"S-sh-sh! Don't put me off. Just listen. I want you to marry my boy,
after I'm gone. I want you to say you will--say it now, so's I can hear
it. Will you, Gracie?"

Grace would have withdrawn her hand, but he would not let her. He clung
to it and to that of his son with all his failing strength.

"Will you, Gracie?" he begged. "It's the last thing I'm goin' to ask of
you. I've tried to be sort of good to you, in my way, and--"

"Don't, don't!" she sobbed. "Let me think a minute, uncle, dear. Oh, do
let me think!"

"I ain't got time, Gracie. You'll have to say it now, or else--All
right, then, think; but think quick."

Grace was thinking. "If she really cares for him, she won't let him ruin
his life." That was what Captain Elkanah had said. And here was a way to
save him from ruin.

"Won't you say it for me, Gracie?" pleaded Captain Eben. She hesitated
no longer.

"Yes, uncle," she answered through tears, "if Nat wants me he can have
me."

Keziah clasped her hands. Captain Eben's face lit up with a great joy.

"Thank the Almighty!" he exclaimed. "Lord, I do thank you. Nat, boy,
you're consider'ble older than she is and you'll have to plan for her.
You be a good husband to her all her days, won't ye? Why, what are you
waitin' for? Why don't you answer me?"

Nat groaned aloud.

"A minute, dad," he stammered. "Just give me a minute, for Heaven sakes!
Keziah--"

"Keziah!" repeated Eben. "Keziah? What are you talkin' to HER for? She
knows there couldn't be no better match in the world. You do know it,
don't ye, Keziah?"

"Yes," said Keziah slowly. "I guess--I guess you're right, Eben."

"Keziah Coffin," cried Nat Hammond, "do you tell me to marry Grace?"

"Yes, Nat, I--I think your father's right."

"Then--then--what difference does--All right, dad. Just as Grace says."

"Thank God!" cried Captain Eben. "Doctor, you and Mrs. Coffin are
witnesses to this. There! now my decks are clear and I'd better get
ready to land. Gracie, girl, the Good Book's over there on the bureau.
Read me a chapter, won't you?"

An hour later Keziah sat alone in the dining room. She had stolen away
when the reading began. Dr. Parker, walking very softly, came to her and
laid his hand on her shoulder.

"He's gone," he said simply.


CHAPTER XIII

IN WHICH KEZIAH BREAKS THE NEWS


It was nearly five o'clock, gray dawn of what was to be a clear,
beautiful summer morning, when Keziah softly lifted the latch and
entered the parsonage. All night she had been busy at the Hammond
tavern. Busy with the doctor and the undertaker, who had been called
from his bed by young Higgins; busy with Grace, soothing her, comforting
her as best she could, and petting her as a mother might pet a
stricken child. The poor girl was on the verge of prostration, and from
hysterical spasms of sobs and weeping passed to stretches of silent,
dry-eyed agony which were harder to witness and much more to be feared.

"It is all my fault," she repeated over and over again. "All my fault! I
killed him! I killed him, Aunt Keziah! What shall I do? Oh, why couldn't
I have died instead? It would have been so much better, better for
everybody."

"Ss-sh! ss-sh! deary," murmured the older woman. "Don't talk so; you
mustn't talk so. Your uncle was ready to go. He's been ready for ever so
long, and those of us who knew how feeble he was expected it any time.
'Twa'n't your fault at all and he'd say so if he was here now."

"No, he wouldn't. He'd say just as I do, that I was to blame. You don't
know, Aunt Keziah. Nobody knows but me."

"Maybe I do, Gracie, dear; maybe I do. Maybe I understand better'n you
think I do. And it's all been for the best. You'll think so, too, one
of these days. It seems hard now; it is awful hard, you poor thing, but
it's all for the best, I'm sure. Best for everyone. It's a mercy he went
sudden and rational, same as he did. The doctor says that, if he hadn't,
he'd have been helpless and bedridden and, maybe, out of his head for
another year. He couldn't have lived longer'n that, at the most."

"But you DON'T know, Aunt Keziah! You don't know what I--I AM to blame.
I'll never forgive myself. And I'll never be happy again."

"Yes, you will. You'll come, some day, to think it was best and right,
for you and--and for others. I know you think you'll never get over it,
but you will. Somehow or other you will, same as the rest of us have
had to do. The Lord tries us mighty hard sometimes, but He gives us the
strength to bear it. There! there! don't, deary, don't."

Dr. Parker was very anxious.

"She must rest," he told Mrs. Coffin. "She must, or her brain will give
way. I'm going to give her something to make her sleep and you must get
her to take it."

So Keziah tried and, at last, Grace did take the drug. In a little while
she was sleeping, uneasily and with moans and sobbings, but sleeping,
nevertheless.

"Now it's your turn, Keziah," said the doctor. "You go home now and
rest, yourself. We don't need you any more just now."

"Where's--where's Cap'n Nat?" asked Keziah.

"He's in there with his father. He bears it well, although he is mighty
cut up. Poor chap, he seems to feel that he is to blame, somehow. Says
Cap'n Eben and he had disagreed about something or other and he fears
that hastened the old man's death. Nonsense, of course. It was bound to
come and I told him so. 'Twas those blasted Come-Outers who really did
it, although I shan't say so to anyone but you. I'm glad Nat and the
girl have agreed to cruise together. It's a mighty good arrangement. She
couldn't have a better man to look out for her and he couldn't have a
better wife. I suppose I'm at liberty to tell people of the engagement,
hey?"

"Yes. Yes, I don't see any reason why not. Yes--I guess likely you'd
better tell 'em."

"All right. Now you go home. You've had a hard night, like the rest of
us."

How hard he had no idea. And Keziah, as she wearily entered the
parsonage, realized that the morning would be perhaps the hardest
of all. For upon her rested the responsibility of seeing that the
minister's secret was kept. And she, and no other, must break the news
to him.

The dining room was dark and gloomy. She lighted the lamp. Then she
heard a door open and Ellery's voice, as he called down the stairs.

"Who is it?" he demanded. "Mrs. Coffin?"

She was startled. "Yes," she said softly, after a moment. "Yes, Mr.
Ellery, it's me. What are you doin' awake at such an hour's this?"

"Yes, I'm awake. I couldn't sleep well to-night, somehow. Too much
to think of, I imagine. But where have you been? Why weren't you at
meeting? And where--Why, it's almost morning!"

She did not answer at once. The temptation was to say nothing now, to
put off the trying scene as long as possible.

"It's morning," repeated the minister. "Are you sick? Has anything
happened?"

"Yes," she answered slowly, "somethin' has happened. Are you dressed?
Could you come down?"

He replied that he would be down in a moment. When he came he found
her standing by the table waiting for him. The look of her face in the
lamplight shocked him.

"Why, Mrs. Coffin!" he exclaimed. "What IS it? You look as if you had
been through some dreadful experience."

"Maybe I have," she replied. "Maybe I have. Experiences like that come
to us all in this life, to old folks and young, and we have to bear 'em
like men and women. That's the test we're put to, Mr. Ellery, and the
way we come through the fire proves the stuff we're made of. Sorrows and
disappointments and heartbreaks and sicknesses and death--"

She paused on the word. He interrupted her.

"Death?" he repeated. "Death? Is some one dead, some one I know? Mrs.
Coffin, what is it you are trying to tell me?"

Her heart went out to him. She held out both her hands.

"You poor boy," she cried, "I'm trying to tell you one of the hardest
things a body can tell. Yes, some one is dead, but that ain't all. Eben
Hammond, poor soul, is out of his troubles and gone."

"Eben Hammond! Captain Eben? Dead! Why, why--"

"Yes, Eben's gone. He was took down sudden and died about ten o'clock
last night. I was there and--"

"Captain Eben dead! Why, he was as well as--as--She said--Oh, I must go!
I must go at once!"

He was on his way to the door, but she held it shut.

"No," she said gravely, "you mustn't go. You mustn't go, Mr. Ellery.
That's the one thing you mustn't do."

"You don't understand. By and by I can tell you why I must be there, but
now--"

"I do understand. I understand it all. Lord help us! if I'd only
understood sooner, how much of this might have been spared. Why DIDN'T
you tell me?"

"Mrs. Coffin--"

"John--you won't mind my callin' you John. I'm old enough, pretty nigh,
to be your mother, and I've come to feel almost as if I was. John,
you've got to stay here with me. You can't go to that house. You can't
go to her."

"Mrs. Coffin, what are you saying? Do you know--Have you--"

"Yes, I know all about it. I know about the meetin's in the pines and
all. Oh, why didn't you trust me and tell me? If you had, all would have
been SO much better!"

He looked at her in utter amazement. The blood rushed to his face.

"You know THAT?" he whispered.

"Yes, I know."

"Did she tell--"

"No, nobody told. That is, only a little. I got a hint and I suspicioned
somethin' afore. The rest I saw with my own eyes."

He was now white, but his jaw shot forward and his teeth closed.

"If you do know," he said, "you must realize that my place is with her.
Now, when she is in trouble--"

"Would you want to make that trouble greater? More than she could bear?"

"I think I might help her to bear it. Mrs. Coffin, you have been my
truest friend, but one, in Trumet. You HAVE been like a mother to me.
But I have thought this out to the end and I shall go through with it.
It is my affair--and hers. If my own mother were alive and spoke as you
do, I should still go through with it. It is right, it is my life. I'm
not ashamed of anything I've done. I'm proud. I'm proud of her. And
humble only when I think how unworthy I am to be her husband. I suppose
you are fearful of what my congregation will say. Well, I've thought of
that, too, and thought it through. Whatever they say and whatever they
do will make no difference. Do you suppose I will let THEM keep me from
her? Please open that door."

He was very tragic and handsome--and young, as he stood there. The tears
overflowed the housekeeper's eyes as she looked at him. If her own love
story had not been broken off at its beginning, if she had not thrown
her life away, she might have had a son like that. She would have given
all that the years had in store for her, given it gladly, to have been
able to open the door and bid him go. But she was firm.

"It ain't the congregation, John," she said. "Nor Trumet, nor your
ministry. That means more'n you think it does, now; but it ain't that.
You mustn't go to her because--well, because she don't want you to."

"Doesn't want me? I know better." He laughed in supreme scorn.

"She doesn't want you, John. She wouldn't see you if you went. She would
send you away again, sure, sartin sure. She would. And if you didn't
go when she sent you, you wouldn't be the man I hope you are. John, you
mustn't see Grace again. She ain't yours. She belongs to some one else."

"Some one else!" He repeated the words in a whisper. "Some one ELSE?
Why, Mrs. Coffin, you must be crazy! If you expect me to--"

"Hush! hush! I ain't crazy, though there's times when I wonder I ain't.
John, you and Grace have known each other for a few months, that's
all. You've been attracted to her because she was pretty and educated
and--and sweet; and she's liked you because you were about the only
young person who could understand her and--and all that. And so you've
been meetin' and have come to believe--you have, anyway--that 'twas
somethin' more than likin'. But you neither of you have stopped to think
that a marriage between you two was as impossible as anything could be.
And, besides, there's another man. A man she's known all her life and
loved and respected--"

"Stop, Mrs. Coffin! stop this wicked nonsense. I won't hear it."

"John, Grace Van Horne is goin' to marry Cap'n Nat Hammond. There!
that's the livin' truth."

In his absolute confidence and faith he had again started for the door.
Now he wheeled and stared at her. She nodded solemnly.

"It's the truth," she repeated. "She and Nat are promised to each other.
Cap'n Eben, on his deathbed, asked Dr. Parker and me to be witnesses to
the engagement. Now you see why you mustn't go nigh her again."

He did not answer. Instead, he stood silently staring. She stepped
forward and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Set down, John," she said. "Set down and let me tell you about it. Yes,
yes, you must. If I tell you, you'll understand better. There! there!
don't you interrupt me yet and don't you look that way. Do set down."

She led him over to the rocking-chair and gently forced him into it.
He obeyed, although with no apparent realization of what he was doing.
Still with her hand on his shoulder she went on speaking. She told him
of her visit to the Hammond tavern, saying nothing of Mr. Pepper's
call nor of her own experience in the grove. She told of Captain Eben's
seizure, of what the doctor said, and of the old Come-Outer's return to
consciousness. Then she described the scene in the sick room and how Nat
and Grace had plighted troth. He listened, at first stunned and stolid,
then with growing impatience.

"So you see," she said. "It's settled; they're engaged, and Dr. Parker
will tell everybody of the engagement this very mornin'. It wa'n't any
great surprise to me. Those two have been brought up together; 'twas the
natural thing that was almost bound to happen. Eben's heart was set on
it for years. And she'll have a good husband, John, that I know. And
she'll do her best to make him happy. He's a good man and--"

The minister sprang to his feet.

"A good man!" he cried furiously. "A good man! One who will make use of
a dying father to drive a girl into--Stand aside, Mrs. Coffin!"

"John, you mustn't speak that way of Nat Hammond. He ain't the kind to
drive a girl against her will. And Grace is not one to be driven."

"Are you blind? Can't you see? Why, only yesterday, she--Do you think I
shall permit such a wicked crime as that to--"

"Ss-sh! No, it ain't wicked, it's right. Right and best for everybody,
for her especial. Yesterday she might have forgot for a minute. But
think, just think what would have happened if she cared for you."

"But she does! I know she does. Mrs. Coffin, stand away from that door."

"No, John; if you go out of that door now, to go to her, you'll have to
go by main strength. You shan't wreck yourself and that girl if I can
help it. Be a man."

The pair looked at each other. Keziah was determined, but so, evidently,
was he. She realized, with a sinking heart, that her words had made
absolutely no impression. He did not attempt to pass, but he slowly
shook his head.

"Mrs. Coffin," he said, "perhaps you believe you're doing right. I
hope--yes, I'll give you credit for that belief. But I KNOW I am right
and I shall go to her. Such a--a BARGAIN as that you have just told me
of is no more to be regarded than--"

"John, I beg you--"

"NO."

"Then go. Go this minute and break her heart and ruin her life and spoil
her good name in this village where she's lived since she was eight
years old. Go! be selfish. I suppose that's part of a man's make-up. Go!
Never mind her. Go!"

"I do 'mind' her, as you call it. I AM thinking of her."

"No, you're not. It's yourself."

"If it was myself--and God knows it is the only happiness on earth for
me--if it was only myself, and I really thought she wished me to stay
away, I'd stay, I'd stay, though I'd pray to die before this hour was
over."

"I know, I know. I've prayed to die myself afore now, but I'm here yet;
and so will you be. We can't die so easy."

"But I know--"

"Do you suppose SHE would come to YOU if she knew it would be your
ruin?"

He hesitated. The last time they met, ages before--no, only the previous
afternoon--she had told him it was his happiness and his future only
that she thought of. He choked and drew his hand across his eyes.

"Mrs. Coffin," he said, "you tell me it will be her ruin. YOU tell me
so. You SAY she doesn't want me. I tell you that the only thing that
will keep me from her is hearing that from her own lips. When she tells
me to leave her I will, and not before."

"She'll tell you, John; she'll tell you. I know you must despise me,
pretty nigh. I cal'late you think I'm a worldly old woman, carin'
nothin' for your feelin's. Maybe I've talked pretty hard in the last few
minutes, but I haven't meant to be hard. To be honest, I didn't think
you'd listen to me. I expected you'd insist on seein' her yourself.
Well, then, go and see her, if you must, though what will come of it
can only be more trouble, for you run the risk of folks knowin' it and
beginnin' to wonder. And I know Grace. She's made up her mind and won't
change it. But I do ask you this: I ask you not to go now. Wait a little
while, do. I left her asleep, worn out by what she's been through and
under the effects of the doctor's sleepin' medicine. He said she must
rest or he was afraid her brain would give out. For her sake, then,
wait a little. Then, if you don't hear from her, maybe I can arrange a
meetin' place where you can see her without anyone's knowin' it. I'll
try. But do wait a little while, for her sake, won't you?"

At last he was listening and hesitating.

"Won't you?" begged Keziah.

"Yes," he answered slowly. "I'll wait. I'll wait until noon, somehow,
if I can. I'll try. But not a minute later. Not one. You don't know what
you're asking, Mrs. Coffin."

"Yes, I do. I know well. And I thank you for her sake."

But he did not have to wait until noon. At six o'clock, through the
dew-soaked grass of the yard, came the Higgins boy. For the first time
in his short life he had been awake all night and he moved slowly.

The housekeeper opened the door. Ike held up an envelope, clutched in a
grimy hand.

"It's for you, Mrs. Keziah," he said. "Gracie, she sent it. There ain't
no answer."

Keziah took the letter. "How is she? And how's Nat?" she asked.

"They're doin' pretty well, so ma says. Ma's there now and they've sent
for Hannah Poundberry. Gee!" he added, yawning, "I ain't slept a wink.
Been on the jump, now I tell ye. Didn't none of them Come-Outers git in,
not one. I sent 'em on the home tack abilin'. You ought to hear me give
old Zeke Bassett Hail Columby! Gosh! I was just ahopin' HE'D come."

Mrs. Coffin closed the door and tore open the envelope. Within
was another addressed, in Grace's handwriting, to Mr. Ellery. The
housekeeper entered the study, handed it to him and turned away.

The minister, who had been pacing the floor, seized the note eagerly.
It was written in pencil and by a hand that had trembled much. Yet there
was no indecision in the written words.


"Dear John," wrote Grace. "I presume Aunt Keziah has told you of uncle's
death and of my promise to Nat. It is true. I am going to marry him. I
am sure this is right and for the best. Our friendship was a mistake and
you must not see me again. Please don't try.

"GRACE VAN HORNE."


Beneath was another paragraph.


"Don't worry about me. I shall be happy, I am sure. And I shall hope
that you may be. I shall pray for that."


The note fell to the floor with a rustle that sounded loud in the
stillness. Then Keziah heard the minister's step. She turned. He was
moving slowly across the room.

"John," she cried anxiously, "you poor boy!"

He answered without looking back.

"I'm--going--up--to--my--room," he said, a pause between each word. "I
want to be alone awhile, Mrs. Coffin."

Wearily Keziah set about preparing breakfast. Not that she expected the
meal would be eaten, but it gave her something to do and occupied her
mind. The sun had risen and the light streamed in at the parsonage
windows. The breeze blew fresh and cool from the ocean. It was a
magnificent morning.

She called to him that breakfast was ready, but he did not answer. She
could eat nothing herself, and, when the table was cleared, prepared
to do the week's washing, for Monday is always washday in Trumet. Noon
came, dinner time, but still he did not come down. At last Keziah could
stand it no longer. She determined to go to him. She climbed the steep
stairs and rapped on the door of his room.

"Yes?" she heard him say.

"It's me," was the reply. "Mr. Ellery, can I come in? I know you want
to be alone, but I don't think you'd ought to be, too much. I'd like to
talk with you a few minutes; may I?"

A moment passed before he told her to enter. He was sitting in a chair
by the window, dressed just as he had been when she returned from the
tavern. She looked sharply at his face as it was turned toward her. His
eyes were dry and in them was an expression so hopeless and dreary that
the tears started to her own.

"John," she said, "I couldn't bear to think of your facin' it alone up
here. I just had to come."

He smiled, and the smile was as hopeless as the look in his eyes.

"Face it?" he repeated. "Well, Mrs. Coffin, I must face it, I suppose.
I've been facing it ever since--since I knew. And I find it no easier."

"John, what are you goin' to do?"

He shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "Go away somewhere, first
of all, I guess. Go somewhere and--and try to live it down. I can't, of
course, but I must try."

"Go away? Leave Trumet and your church and your congregation?"

"Did you suppose I could stay here?"

"I hoped you would."

"And see the same people and the same places? And do the same things?
See--see HER! Did you"--he moved impatiently--"did you expect me to
attend the wedding?"

She put out her hand. "I know it'll be hard," she said, "stayin' here, I
mean. But your duty to others--"

"Don't you think we've heard enough about duty to others? How about my
duty to myself?"

"I guess that's the last thing we ought to think about in the world, if
we do try to be fair and square. Your church thinks a heap of you, John.
They build on you. You've done more in the little while you've been here
than Mr. Langley did in his last fifteen years. We've grown and we're
doin' good--doin' it, not talkin' it in prayer meetin'. The parish
committee likes you and the poor folks in the society love you. Old Mrs.
Prince was tellin' me, only a little spell ago, that she didn't know how
she'd have pulled through this dreadful time if 'twa'n't for you. And
there's lots of others. Are you goin' to leave them? And what reason
will you give for leavin'?"

He shook his head. "I don't know," he answered. "I may not give any. But
I shall go."

"I don't believe you will. I don't believe you're that kind. I've
watched you pretty sharp since you and I have been livin' together and I
have more faith in you than that comes to. You haven't acted to me like
a coward and I don't think you'll run away."

"Mrs. Coffin, it is so easy for you to talk. Perhaps if I were in your
place I should be giving good advice about duty and not running away and
so on. But suppose you were in mine."

"Well, suppose I was."

"Suppose--Oh, but there! it's past supposing."

"I don't know's 'tis. My life hasn't been all sunshine and fair winds,
by no means."

"That's true. I beg your pardon. You have had troubles and, from what
I hear, you've borne them bravely. But you haven't had to face anything
like this."

"Haven't I? Well, what is it you're asked to face? Disappointment? I've
faced that. Sorrow and heartbreak? I've faced them."

"You've never been asked to sit quietly by and see the one you love more
than all the world marry some one else."

"How do you know I ain't? How do you know I ain't doin' just that now?"

"Mrs. Coffin!"

"John Ellery, you listen to me. You think I'm a homely old woman,
probably, set in my ways as an eight-day clock. I guess I look like it
and act like it. But I ain't so awful old--on the edge of forty, that's
all. And when I was your age I wa'n't so awful homely, either. I had
fellers aplenty hangin' round and I could have married any one of a
dozen. This ain't boastin'; land knows I'm fur from that. I was brought
up in this town and even when I was a girl at school there was only one
boy I cared two straws about. He and I went to picnics together and
to parties and everywhere. Folks used to laugh and say we was keepin'
comp'ny, even then.

"Well, when I was eighteen, after father died, I went up to New Bedford
to work in a store there. Wanted to earn my own way. And this young
feller I'm tellin' you about went away to sea, but every time he come
home from a voyage he come to see me and things went on that way till we
was promised to each other. The engagement wa'n't announced, but 'twas
so, just the same. We'd have been married in another year. And then we
quarreled.

"'Twas a fool quarrel, same as that kind gen'rally are. As much my fault
as his and as much his as mine, I cal'late. Anyhow, we was both proud,
or thought we was, and neither would give in. And he says to me, 'You'll
be sorry after I'm gone. You'll wish me back then.' And says I, BEIN' a
fool, 'I guess not. There's other fish in the sea.' He sailed and I did
wish him back, but I wouldn't write fust and neither would he. And then
come another man."

She paused, hesitated, and then continued.

"Never mind about the other man. He was handsome then, in a way, and he
had money to spend, and he liked me. He wanted me to marry him. If--if
the other, the one that went away, had written I never would have
thought of such a thing, but he didn't write. And, my pride bein' hurt,
and all, I finally said yes to the second chap. My folks did all they
could to stop it; they told me he was dissipated, they said he had a bad
name, they told me twa'n't a fit match. And his people, havin' money,
was just as set against his takin' a poor girl. Both sides said ruin
would come of it. But I married him.

"Well, for the first year 'twa'n't so bad. Not happiness exactly, but
not misery either. That come later. His people was well off and he'd
never worked much of any. He did for a little while after we was
married, but not for long. Then he begun to drink and carry on and lost
his place. Pretty soon he begun to neglect me and at last went off to
sea afore the mast. We was poor as poverty, but I could have stood that;
I did stand it. I took in sewin' and kept up an appearance, somehow.
Never told a soul. His folks come patronizin' around and offered me
money, so's I needn't disgrace them. I sent 'em rightabout in a hurry.
Once in a while he'd come home, get tipsy and abuse me. Still I said
nothin'. Thank God, there was no children; that's the one thing I've
been thankful for.

"You can't keep such things quiet always. People are bound to find out.
They come to me and said, 'Why don't you leave him?' but I wouldn't.
I could have divorced him easy enough, there was reasons plenty, but I
wouldn't do that. Then word came that he was dead, drowned off in the
East Indies somewheres. I come back here to keep house for Sol, my
brother, and I kept house for him till he died and they offered me this
place here at the parsonage. There! that's my story, part of it, more'n
I ever told a livin' soul afore, except Sol."

She ceased speaking. The minister, who had sat silent by the window,
apathetically listening or trying to listen, turned his head.

"I apologize, Mrs. Coffin," he said dully, "you have had trials, hard
ones. But--"

"But they ain't as hard as yours, you think? Well, I haven't quite
finished yet. After word come of my husband's death, the other man come
and wanted me to marry him. And I wanted to--oh, how I wanted to! I
cared as much for him as I ever did; more, I guess. But I wouldn't--I
wouldn't, though it wrung my heart out to say no. I give him up--why?
'cause I thought I had a duty laid on me."

Ellery sighed. "I can see but one duty," he said. "That is the duty
given us by God, to marry the one we love."

Keziah's agitation, which had grown as she told her story, suddenly
flashed into flame.

"Is that as fur as you can see?" she asked fiercely. "It's an easy duty,
then--or looks easy now. I've got a harder one; it's to stand by the
promise I gave and the man I married."

He looked at her as if he thought she had lost her wits.

"The man you married?" he replied. "Why, the man you married is dead."

"No, he ain't. You remember the letter you saw me readin' that night
when you come back from Come-Outers' meetin'? Well, that letter was from
him. He's alive."

For the first time during the interview the minister rose to his feet,
shocked out of his despair and apathy by this astounding revelation.

"Alive?" he repeated. "Your husband ALIVE? Why, Mrs. Coffin, this is--"

She waved him to silence. "Don't stop me now," she said. "I've told so
much; let me tell the rest. Yes, he's alive. Alive and knockin' round
the world somewheres. Every little while he writes me for money and, if
I have any, I send it to him. Why? Why 'cause I'm a coward, after all,
I guess, and I'm scared he'll do what he says he will and come back.
Perhaps you think I'm a fool to put up with it; that's what most folks
would say if they knew it. They'd tell me I ought to divorce him. Well,
I can't, I CAN'T. I walked into the mess blindfold; I married him in
spite of warnin's and everything. I took him for better or for worse,
and now that he's turned out worse, I must take my medicine. I can't
live with him--that I can't do--but while HE lives I'll stay his wife
and give him what money I can spare. That's the duty I told you was laid
on me, and it's a hard one, but I don't run away from it."

John Ellery was silent. What could he say? Keziah went on.

"I don't run away from it," she exclaimed, "and you mustn't run away
from yours. Your church depends on you, they trust you. Are you goin'
to show 'em their trust was misplaced? The girl you wanted is to marry
another man, that's true, and it's mighty hard. But she'll marry a good
man, and, by and by, she'll be happy."

"Happy!" he said scornfully.

"Yes, happy. I know she'll be happy because I know she's doin' what'll
be best for her and because I know him that's to be her husband. I've
known him all my life; he's that other one that--that--and I give him up
to her; yes, I give him up to her, and try to do it cheerful, because I
know it's best for him. Hard for YOU? Great Lord A'mighty! do you think
it ain't hard for ME? I--I--"

She stopped short; then covering her face with her apron, she ran from
the room. John Ellery heard her descending the stairs, sobbing as she
went.

All that afternoon he remained in his chair by the window. It was six
o'clock, supper time, when he entered the kitchen. Keziah, looking up
from the ironing board, saw him. He was white and worn and grim, but he
held out his hand to her.

"Mrs. Coffin," he said, "I'm not going away. You've shown me what
devotion to duty really means. I shall stay here and go on with my
work."

Her face lit up. "Will you?" she said. "I thought you would. I was sure
you was that kind."


CHAPTER XIV

IN WHICH THE SEA MIST SAILS


They buried Captain Eben in the little Come-Outer cemetery at the rear
of the chapel. A bleak, wind-swept spot was that cemetery, bare of trees
and with only a few graves and fewer headstones, for the Come-Outers
were a comparatively new sect and their graveyard was new in
consequence. The grave was dug in the yellow sand beside that of Mrs.
Hammond, Nat's mother, and around it gathered the fifty or sixty friends
who had come to pay their last tribute to the old sailor and tavern
keeper.

The Come-Outers were there, all of them, and some members of the Regular
society, Captain Zeb Mayo, Dr. Parker, Keziah Coffin, Mrs. Higgins, and
Ike. Mrs. Didama Rogers was there also, not as a mourner, but because,
in her capacity as gatherer of gossip, she made it a point never to
miss a funeral. The Rev. Absalom Gott, Come-Outer exhorter at Wellmouth,
preached the short sermon, and Ezekiel Bassett added a few remarks. Then
a hymn was sung and it was over. The little company filed out of the
cemetery, and Captain Eben Hammond was but a memory in Trumet.

Keziah lingered to speak a word with Grace. The girl, looking very white
and worn, leaned on the arm of Captain Nat, whose big body acted as
a buffer between her and over-sympathetic Come-Outers. Mrs. Coffin
silently held out both hands and Grace took them eagerly.

"Thank you for coming, Aunt Keziah," she said. "I was sure you would."

"Least I could do, deary," was the older woman's answer. "Your uncle
and I was good friends once; we haven't seen each other so often of
late years, but that ain't changed my feelin's. Now you must go home and
rest. Don't let any of these"--with a rather scornful glance at Josiah
Badger and Ezekiel and the Reverend Absalom--"these Job's comforters
bother you. Nat, you see that they let her alone, won't you?"

Captain Nat nodded. He, too, looked very grave and worn. "I'll tend to
them," he said shortly. "Come, Grace," he added; "let's go."

But the girl hung back. "Just a minute, Nat," she said. "I--I--would you
mind if I spoke to Aunt Keziah--alone? I only want to say a word."

Nat strode off to the cemetery gate, where Josiah Badger stood,
brandishing a red cotton handkerchief as a not too-clean emblem of
mourning. Mr. Badger eagerly sprang forward, but ran into an impossible
barrier in the form of the captain's outstretched arm. Josiah protested
and the captain replied. Grace leaned forward.

"Auntie," she whispered, "tell me: Did a letter--Did he--"

"Yes, it came. I gave it to him."

"Did--did he tell you? Do you know?"

"Yes, I know, deary."

"Did he--is he--"

"He's well, deary. He'll be all right. I'll look out for him."

"You will, won't you? You won't let him do anything--"

"Not a thing. Don't worry. We've had a long talk and he's going to
stay right here and go on with his work. And nobody else'll ever know,
Gracie."

"How--O Aunt Keziah! how he must despise me."

"Despise you! For doin' what was your duty? Nonsense! He'll respect you
for it and come to understand 'twas best for both of you, by and by.
Don't worry about him, Gracie. I tell you I'll look out for him."

"I guess it will be better if he does despise me. And hate me, too. He
can't despise and hate me more than I do myself. But it IS right--what
I'm doing; and the other was wrong and wicked. Auntie, you'll come and
see me, won't you? I shall be so lonesome."

"Yes, yes; I'll come. Perhaps not right away. There's reasons why I'd
better not come right away. But, by and by, after it's all settled and
you and Nat"--she hesitated for an instant in spite of herself--"after
you and Nat are married I'll come."

"Don't talk about that NOW. Please don't."

"All right, I won't. You be a good, brave girl and look out for Nat;
that's your duty and I'm sure you'll do it. And I'll do my best for
John."

"Do you call him John?"

"Yup. We had a sort of--of adoptin' ceremony the other mornin' and
I--Well, you see, I've got to have somebody to call by their front name
and he's about all I've got left."

"O Aunt Keziah! if I could be one half as patient and brave and sweet as
you are--"

"Sssh! here comes Nat. Be kind to him. He's sufferin', too; maybe more'n
you imagine. Here she is, Nat. Take her back home and be good to her."

The broad-shouldered skipper led his charge out of the gate and down
the "Turn-off." Josiah Badger looked after them disgustedly. As Keziah
approached, he turned to her.

"I swan to man!" he exclaimed, in offended indignation, "if I ain't
losin' my respect for that Nat Hammond. He's the f-f-fuf-for'ardest
critter ever I see. I was just agoin' to hail Gracie and ask her what
she thought about my leadin' some of the meetin's now her uncle has been
called aloft. I wanted to ask her about it fust, afore Zeke Bassett
got ahead of me, but that Nat wouldn't let me. Told me she mustn't be
b-b-b-bothered about little things now. LITTLE things! Now, what do you
think of that, Mrs. Coffin? And I spoke to Lot Taylor, one of our own
s-s-sas-sassiety, and asked what he thought of it, and he said for me to
go home set d-d-down and let my h-h-h-hah-hair grow. Of all--"

"I tell you what you do, Josiah," broke in the voice of Captain Zeb
Mayo, "you go home or somewhere else and set down and have it cut.
That'll take pretty nigh as long, and'll keep it from wearin' out your
coat collar. Keziah, I've been waitin' for you. Get in my shay and I'll
drive you back to the parsonage."

Mrs. Coffin accepted the invitation and a seat in the chaise beside
Captain Zeb. The captain spoke of the dead Come-Outer and of his respect
for him in spite of the difference in creed. He also spoke of the Rev.
John Ellery and of the affection he had come to feel for the young man.

"I like that young feller, Keziah," he said. "Like him for a lot of
reasons, same as the boy liked the hash. For one thing, his religion
ain't all starch and no sugar. He's good-hearted and kind and--and
human. He seems to get just as much satisfaction out of the promise of
heaven as he does out of the sartainty of t'other port. He ain't all the
time bangin' the bulkhead and sniffin' brimstone, like parsons I have
seen. Sulphur's all right for a spring medicine, maybe, but when June
comes I like to remember that God made roses. Elkanah, he comes to me a
while ago and he says, 'Zebedee,' he says, 'don't you think Mr. Ellery's
sermons might be more orthodox?' 'Yes,' says I, 'they might be, but what
a mercy 'tis they ain't.' He, he, he! I kind of like to poke Elkanah in
the shirt front once in a while, just to hear it crackle. Say, Keziah,
you don't think the minister and Annabel are--"

"No," was the emphatic interruption; "I know they ain't; he ain't,
anyway."

"Good! Them Danielses cal'late they own the most of this town already;
if they owned the minister they'd swell up so the rest of us would have
to go aloft or overboard; we'd be crowded off the decks, sure."

"No one owns him. Haven't you found that out?"

"Yup, I cal'late I have and I glory in his spunk."

"I'm glad to hear you say so. Of course Cap'n Elkanah is boss of the
parish committee and--"

"What? No, he ain't nuther. He's head of it, but his vote counts just
one and no more. What makes you say that?"

"Oh, nuthin'. Only I thought maybe, long as Elkanah was feelin' that Mr.
Ellery wa'n't orthodox enough, he might be goin' to make a change."

"He might? HE might! Say, Keziah Coffin, there was Mayos in this town
and in this church afore the fust Daniels ever washed ashore; and
they'll be here when the last one blows up with his own importance. I'm
on that parish committee--you understand?--and I've sailed ships and
handled crews. I ain't so old nor feeble but what I can swing a belayin'
pin. Boss! I'll have you to know that no livin' man bosses me."

"All right! I didn't mean to stir you up, Zebedee. But from things Cap'n
Daniels has said I gathered that he was runnin' the committee. And, as
I'm a friend of Mr. Ellery, it--"

"Friend! Well, so'm I, ain't I? If you ever hear of Daniels tryin' any
tricks against the minister, you send for me, that's all. I'LL show him.
Boss! Humph!"

The wily Keziah alighted at the parsonage gate with the feeling that she
had sown seed in fertile ground. She was quite aware of Captain Zeb's
jealousy of the great Daniels. And the time might come when her parson
needed an influential friend on the committee and in the Regular
society.

The news of the engagement between Captain Nat Hammond and Grace Van
Horne, told by Dr. Parker to one or two of his patients, spread through
Trumet like measles through a family of small children. Didama Rogers
learned it, so did Lavinia Pepper, and after that it might as well
have been printed on the walls for all to read. It was talked over and
gossiped about in every household from the lighthouse keeper's family to
that of George Washington Cash, who lived in the one-room hovel in the
woods near the Wellmouth line, and was a person of distinction, in his
way, being the sole negro in the county. And whenever it was discussed
it was considered a fine thing for both parties concerned. Almost
everyone said it was precisely what they expected.

Annabel Daniels and her father had not expected it. They were, however,
greatly pleased. In their discussion, which lasted far into the night,
Captain Elkanah expressed the opinion that the unexpected denouement was
the result of his interview with Eben. He had told the old Come-Outer
what would happen to his ward if she persisted in her impudent and
audacious plot to entrap a Regular clergyman. She, being discovered, had
yielded, perforce, and had accepted Nat as the next best catch.

Annabel was not satisfied with this explanation. Of course, she said,
she did not pretend to believe Grace's statement that she had found her
uncle unconscious. No doubt the pair had had an interview and all that.
But she believed the minister himself had come to his senses and had
dismissed the brazen creature. She did not blame Mr. Ellery so much. He
was a young man, with a kind heart, and no doubt the "Van Horne
person" had worked upon his sympathies and had taken advantage of his
inexperience of feminine wiles.

"I think, pa," she said, "that it's our duty, yours and mine, to treat
him just as we always have. He doesn't know that we know, and we will
keep the secret. And, as Christians, we should forget and forgive. We'll
invite him here as we always have, keep him under our good influence,
and be very kind to him, poor innocent. As for Captain Hammond, I'm
sorry for him, knowing the kind of wife he is going to have, but no
doubt Come-Outers are not particular."

Kyan Pepper was another whom the news of the engagement surprised
greatly. When Lavinia told him of it, at the dinner table, he dropped
the knife he was holding and the greasy section of fish-ball balanced
upon it.

"'Bishy," said Miss Pepper, "what do you s'pose has happened down to the
Hammond tavern?"

"Oh, I know that," was the reply. "I heard that long ago; Cap'n Eben's
dead."

"'Course he's dead; and I knew you knew it. Land sakes! don't be such a
ninny. Why, I told you myself."

"Well, I didn't know but you'd forgot. Anybody's li'ble to forget who
they've told things to. Why, I've forgot more things--"

"Yes, there ain't no doubt about that. I've told you a million times,
if I have once, to tuck your napkin round your neck when you've got
your Sunday clothes on. And there you be this minute without a sign of a
napkin."

"Why, Laviny! I MUST have it round my neck. I know I--"

"Don't be so foolish! Think I'm blind? Can't I see you ain't got it? Now
where is it?"

Kyan began a futile hunt for the missing napkin, in his lap, on the
table, and finally under it.

"I don't understand," he stammered, "where that napkin can be. I'm just
as sure I had it and now I'm just as sure I ain't got it. What do you
s'pose I done with it?"

"Goodness knows! 'Twouldn't surprise me if you'd et it, you're that
absent-minded. Here! what's that stickin' out of your breast pocket?"

Her brother put his hand to the pocket indicated and produced the
missing napkin, much crumpled.

"There!" he exclaimed, in a tone of relief. "Now I remember. It must
have dropped on the floor and I thought 'twas my handkerchief and picked
it up and--"

"What did you think you'd be carryin' a white handkerchief for, on a
week day?"

"Well, I had on my Sunday suit and--"

"Yes, and for the dear mercy sakes WHY have you got it on?"

Kyan saw an opportunity for self-justification.

"You TOLD me to put it on," he declared triumphantly. "You said yourself
I'd better rig out in my Sunday clothes 'cause we might go to Eben's
funeral. You know you did."

"Hear the man! And then, after you've dressed up to go to his funeral,
you pretend to believe I'm goin' to tell you he's dead. I never--"

"Well, what IS it, then? He ain't come to life, has he?"

"Grace Van Horne's engaged to be married, that's what it is. Look out!
Oh, you--"

Just here occurred the accident already described. Knife and fish ball
descended upon the waistcoat belonging to the "Sunday suit." Lavinia
flew for warm water, ammonia, and a cloth, and the soiled waistcoat
was industriously scrubbed. The cleansing process was accompanied by a
lively tongue lashing, to which Kyan paid little attention.

"Engaged?" he kept repeating. "Gracie Van Horne engaged? Engaged? En--"

"Be still, you poll parrot! Dear! dear! dear! look at them spots. Yes,
yes; don't say it again; she's engaged."

"Who--who--who--"

"Now you've turned to an owl, I do believe. 'Hoo! hoo!' She's engaged to
Nat Hammond, that's who. Nothin' very surprisin' about that, is there?"

Kyan made no answer. He rubbed his forehead, while his sister rubbed the
grease spots. In jerky sentences she told of the engagement and how the
news had reached her.

"I can't believe it," faltered Abishai. "She goin' to marry Nat! Why, I
can't understand. I thought--"

"What did you think? See here! you ain't keepin' anything from me, be
you?"

The answer was enthusiastically emphatic.

"No, no, no, no!" declared Kyan. "Only I didn't know they was--was--"

"Neither did anybody else, but what of it? Folks don't usually advertise
when they're keepin' comp'ny, do they?"

"No--o. But it's gen'rally found out. I know if I was keepin'
comp'ny--or you was, La-viny--"

His sister started.

"What makes you say that?" she demanded, looking quickly up from her
rubbing.

"Why, nothin'. Only if I was--or you was, somebody'd see somethin'
suspicious and kind of drop a hint, and--"

"Better for them if they 'tended to their own affairs," was the sharp
answer. "I ain't got any patience with folks that's always talkin' about
their neighbor's doin's. There! now you go out and stand alongside the
cook stove till that wet place dries. Don't you move till 'TIS dry,
neither."

So to the kitchen went Kyan, to stand, a sort of living clotheshorse,
beside the hot range. But during the drying process he rubbed his
forehead many times. Remembering what he had seen in the grove he could
not understand; but he also remembered, even more vividly, what Keziah
Coffin had promised to do if he ever breathed a word. And he vowed again
that that word should not be breathed.

The death and funeral of Captain Eben furnished Trumet with a subject of
conversation for a week or more. Then, at the sewing circle and at the
store and after prayer meeting, both at the Regular meeting house and
the Come-Outer chapel, speculation centered on the marriage of Nat and
Grace. When was it to take place? Would the couple live at the old house
and "keep packet tavern" or would the captain go to sea again, taking
his bride with him? Various opinions, pro and con, were expressed by the
speculators, but no one could answer authoritatively, because none knew
except those most interested, and the latter would not tell.

John Ellery heard the discussions at the sewing circle when, in company
with some of the men of his congregation, he dropped in at these
gatherings for tea after the sewing was over. He heard them at church,
before and after the morning service, and when he made pastoral calls.
People even asked his opinion, and when he changed the subject inferred,
some of them, that he did not care about the doings of Come-Outers. Then
they switched to inquiries concerning his health.

"You look awful peaked lately, Mr. Ellery," said Didama Rogers. "Ain't
you feelin' well?"

The minister answered that he was as well as usual, or thought he was.

"No, no, you ain't nuther," declared Didama. "You look's if you was
comin' down with a spell of somethin'. I ain't the only one that's
noticed it. Why, Thankful Payne says to me only yesterday, 'Didama,'
says she, 'the minister's got somethin' on his mind and it's wearin' of
him out.' You ain't got nothin' on your mind, have you, Mr. Ellery?"

"I guess not, Mrs. Rogers. It's a beautiful afternoon, isn't it?

"There! I knew you wa'n't well. A beautiful afternoon, and it hotter'n
furyation and gettin' ready to rain at that! Don't tell me! 'Tain't your
mind, Mr. Ellery, it's your blood that's gettin' thin. My husband had a
spell just like it a year or two afore he died, and the doctor said
he needed rest and a change. Said he'd ought to go away somewheres by
himself. I put my foot down on THAT in a hurry. 'The idea!' I
says. 'You, a sick man, goin' off all alone by yourself to die of
lonesomeness. If you go, I go with you.' So him and me went up to Boston
and it rained the whole week we was there, and we set in a little box of
a hotel room with a window that looked out at a brick wall, and set and
set and set, and that's all. I kept talkin' to him to cheer him up, but
he never cheered. I'd talk to him for an hour steady and when I'd
stop and ask a question he'd only groan and say yes, when he meant no.
Finally, I got disgusted, after I'd asked him somethin' four or five
times and he'd never answered, and I told him, I believed he was gettin'
deef. 'Lordy!' he says, 'I wish I was!' Well, that was enough for ME.
Says I, 'If your mind's goin' to give out we'd better be home.' So home
we come. And that's all the good change and rest done HIM. Hey? What did
you say, Mr. Ellery?"

"Er--oh, nothing, nothing, Mrs. Rogers."

"Yes. So home we come and I'd had enough of doctors to last. I figgered
out that his blood was thinnin' and I knew what was good for that. My
great Aunt Hepsy, that lived over to East Wellmouth, she was a great
hand for herbs and such and she'd give me a receipt for thickenin' the
blood that was somethin' wonderful. It had more kind of healin' herbs in
it than you could shake a stick at. I cooked a kittleful and got him to
take a dose four times a day. He made more fuss than a young one about
takin' it. Said it tasted like the Evil One, and such profane talk, and
that it stuck to his mouth so's he couldn't relish his vittles; but I
never let up a mite. He had to take it and it done him a world of good.
Now I've got that receipt yet, Mr. Ellery, and I'll make some of that
medicine for you. I'll fetch it down to-morrow. Yes, yes, I will. I'm
agoin' to, so you needn't say no. And perhaps I'll have heard somethin'
about Cap'n Nat and Grace by that time."

She brought the medicine, and the minister promptly, on her departure,
handed it over to Keziah, who disposed of it just as promptly.

"What did I do with it?" repeated the housekeeper. "Well, I'll tell you.
I was kind of curious to see what 'twas like, so I took a teaspoonful.
I did intend to pour the rest of it out in the henyard, but after that
taste I had too much regard for the hens. So I carried it way down
to the pond and threw it in, jug and all. B-r-r-r! Of all the messes
that--I used to wonder what made Josh Rogers go moonin' round makin' his
lips go as if he was crazy. I thought he was talkin' to himself, but now
I know better, he was TASTIN'. B-r-r-r!"

Keziah was the life of the gloomy parsonage. Without her the minister
would have broken down. Time and time again he was tempted to give up,
in spite of his promise, and leave Trumet, but her pluck and courage
made him ashamed of himself and he stayed to fight it out. She watched
him and tended him and "babied" him as if he was a spoiled child,
pretending to laugh at herself for doing it and at him for permitting
it. She cooked the dishes he liked best, she mended his clothes, she
acted as a buffer between him and callers who came at inopportune
times. She was cheerful always when he was about, and no one would have
surmised that she had a sorrow in the world. But Ellery knew and
she knew he knew, so the affection and mutual esteem between the two
deepened. He called her "Aunt Keziah" at her request and she continued
to call him "John." This was in private, of course; in public he was
"Mr. Ellery" and she "Mrs. Coffin."

In his walks about town he saw nothing of Grace. She and Mrs. Poundberry
and Captain Nat were still at the old home and no one save themselves
knew what their plans might be. Yet, oddly enough, Ellery was the first
outsider to learn these plans and that from Nat himself.

He met the captain at the corner of the "Turnoff" one day late in
August. He tried to make his bow seem cordial, but was painfully aware
that it was not. Nat, however, seemed not to notice, but crossed the
road and held out his hand.

"How are you, Mr. Ellery?" he said. "I haven't run across you for
sometime. What's the matter? Seems to me you look rather under the
weather."

Ellery answered that he was all right and, remembering that he had
not met the captain since old Hammond's death, briefly expressed his
sympathy. His words were perfunctory and his manner cold. His reason
told him that this man was not to blame--was rather to be pitied, if
Keziah's tale was true. Yet it is hard to pity the one who is to marry
the girl you love. Reason has little to do with such matters.

"Well, Mr. Ellery," said Captain Nat, "I won't keep you. I see you're in
a hurry. Just thought I'd run alongside a minute and say good-by. Don't
know's I'll see you again afore I sail."

"Before you sail? You--you are going away?"

"Yup. My owners have been after me for a good while, but I wouldn't
leave home on account of dad's health. Now he's gone, I've got to
be gettin' back on salt water again. My ship's been drydocked and
overhauled and she's in New York now loadin' for Manila. It's a long
vy'age, even if I come back direct, which ain't likely. So I may not see
the old town again for a couple of years. Take care of yourself, won't
you? Good men, especially ministers, are scurse, and from what I hear
about you I cal'late Trumet needs you."

"When are you going?"

"Last of next week, most likely."

"Will you--shall you go alone? Are you to be--to be--"

"Married? No. Grace and I have talked it over and we've agreed it's best
to wait till I come back. You see, dad's been dead such a little while,
and all, that--well, we're goin' to wait, anyhow. She'll stay in the old
house with Hannah, and I've fixed things so she'll be provided for while
I'm gone. I left it pretty much to her. If she'd thought it best for
us to marry now, I cal'late I should have--have--well, done what she
wanted. But she didn't. Ah, hum!" he added with a sigh; "she's a good
girl, a mighty good girl. Well, so long and good luck."

"Good-by, captain."

"Good-by. Er--I say, Mr. Ellery, how things at the parsonage? All well
there, are you?"

"Yes."

"Er--Keziah--Mrs. Coffin, your housekeeper, is she smart?"

"Yes. She's well."

"That's good. Say, you might tell her good-by for me, if you want to.
Tell her I wished her all the luck there was. And--and--just say that
there ain't any--well, that her friend--say just that, will you?--her
FRIEND said 'twas all right. She'll understand; it's a--a sort of joke
between us."

"Very good, captain; I'll tell her."

"Much obliged. And just ask her to keep an eye on Grace while I'm gone.
Tell her I leave Gracie under her wing. Keziah and me are old chums, in
a way, you see."

"Yes. I'll tell her that, too."

"And don't forget the 'friend' part. Well, so long."

They shook hands and parted.

Didama and her fellow news-venders distributed the tale of Captain Nat's
sailing broadcast during the next few days. There was much wonderment
at the delayed marriage, but the general verdict was that Captain Eben's
recent death and the proper respect due to it furnished sufficient
excuse. Hannah Poundberry, delighted at being so close to the center of
interest, talked and talked, and thus Grace was spared the interviews
which would have been a trouble to her. Nat left town, via the packet,
on the following Wednesday. Within another week came the news that his
ship, the Sea Mist, had sailed from New York, bound for Manila. Her
topsails sank beneath the horizon, and she vanished upon the wild waste
of tumbling waves and out of Trumet's knowledge, as many another vessel,
manned and officered by Cape Cod men, had done. The village talked of
her and her commander for a few days and then forgot them both. Only at
the old home by the landing and at the parsonage were they remembered.


CHAPTER XV

IN WHICH TRUMET TALKS OF CAPTAIN NAT


Summer was over, autumn came, passed, and it was winter--John Ellery's
first winter in Trumet. Fish weirs were taken up, the bay filled with
ice, the packet ceased to run, and the village settled down to hibernate
until spring. The stage came through on its regular trips, except when
snow or slush rendered the roads impassable, but passengers were very
few. Occasionally there were northeast gales, with shrieking winds,
driving gusts of sleet and hail and a surf along the ocean side that
bellowed and roared and tore the sandy beach into new shapes, washing
away shoals and building others, blocking the mouth of the little inlet
where the fish boats anchored and opening a new channel a hundred yards
farther down. Twice there were wrecks, one of a fishing schooner, the
crew of which were fortunate enough to escape by taking to the dories,
and another, a British bark, which struck on the farthest bar and
was beaten to pieces by the great waves, while the townspeople stood
helplessly watching from the shore, for launching a boat in that surf
was impossible.

The minister was one of those who watched. News of the disaster had been
brought to the village by the lightkeeper's assistant, and Ellery and
most of the able-bodied men in town had tramped the three miles to the
beach, facing the screaming wind and the cutting blasts of flying sand.
As they came over the dunes there were times when they had to dig their
heels into the ground and bend forward to stand against the freezing
gale. And, as they drew nearer, the thunder of the mighty surf grew ever
louder, until they saw the white clouds of spray leap high above the
crazily tossing, flapping bunches of beach grass that topped the last
knoll.

Three masts and a broken bowsprit sticking slantwise up from a whirl of
creamy white, that was all they could see of the bark, at first glance.
But occasionally, as the breakers drew back for another cruel blow, they
caught glimpses of the tilted deck, smashed bare of houses and rail.

"Those black things on the masts?" asked Ellery, bending to scream the
question into the ear of Gaius Winslow, his companion. "Are they--it
can't be possible that they're--"

"Yup," shrieked Gaius in reply, "they're men. Crew lashed in the
riggin'. Poor fellers! it'll soon be over for 'em. And they're most
likely frozen stiff a'ready and won't sense drownin', that's a comfort."

"Men!" repeated the minister in horror. "Men! Great God! and are we
to stand by here and see them die without lifting a hand? Why, it's
barbarous! It's--"

Winslow seized his arm and pointed.

"Look!" he shouted. "Look at them! How much good would our liftin' hands
do against them?"

Ellery looked. The undertow, that second, was sucking the beach dry,
sucking with such force that gravel and small stones pattered down the
slope in showers. And behind it a wave, its ragged top raveled by the
wind into white streamers, was piling up, up, up, sheer and green and
mighty, curling over now and descending with a hammer blow that shook
the land beneath their feet. And back of it reared another, and
another, and another, an eighth of a mile of whirling, surging, terrific
breakers, with a yelling hurricane whipping them on.

It was soon over, as Gaius had said it would be. A mighty leap of spray,
a section of hull broken off and tossed into view for an instant, then
two of the masts went down. The other followed almost at once. Then
the watchers, most of them, went back to the village, saying little or
nothing and dispersing silently to their homes.

During the next fortnight John Ellery conducted six funeral services,
brief prayers beside the graves of unknown men from that wreck. The
bodies, as they were washed ashore, were put into plain coffins paid
for by the board of selectmen, and buried in the corner of the Regular
cemetery beside other waifs thrown up by the sea in other years. It was
a sad experience for him, but it was an experience and tended to make
him forget his own sorrow just a little. Or, if not to forget, at least
to think of and sympathize more keenly with the sorrows of others.
Somewhere, in England or Ireland or scattered over the wide world, there
were women and children waiting for these men, waiting anxiously for
news of their safe arrival in port, praying for them. When he mentioned
this thought to the townspeople they nodded philosophically and said
yes, they "presumed likely." As Captain Zeb put it, "Most sailors are
fools enough to get married, prob'ly this lot wa'n't any exception." It
was no new thought to him or to any other dweller in that region. It was
almost a fixed certainty that, if you went to sea long enough, you
were bound to be wrecked sometime or other. The chances were that, with
ordinary luck and good management, you would escape with your life.
Luck, good or bad, was the risk of the trade; good management was
expected, as a matter of course.

Mr. Pepper made no more calls at the parsonage, and when the minister
met him, at church or elsewhere, seemed anxious to avoid an interview.

"Well, Abishai," asked Ellery, on one of these occasions, "how are you
getting on at home? Has your sister locked you up again?"

"No, sir, she ain't," replied Kyan. "Laviny, she's sort of diff'rent
lately. She ain't nigh so--so down on a feller as she used to be. I can
get out once in a while by myself nowadays, when she wants to write a
letter or somethin'."

"Oh, she's writing letters, is she?"

"Um--hm. Writes one about every once in a week. I don't know who they're
to, nuther, but I have my suspicions. You see, we've got a cousin out
West--out Pennsylvany way--and he ain't very well and has got a turrible
lot of money. I'm sort of surmisin' that Laviny's writin' to him. We're
about his only relations that's left alive and--and so--"

"I see." The minister smiled.

"Yup. Laviny's a pretty good navigator, fur's keepin' an eye to wind'ard
is concerned. She was awful down on Phineas--that's his name--'cause he
married a Philadelphy woman, but he's a widower man now, so I s'pose she
feels better toward him. She's talkin' of goin' up to Sandwich pretty
soon."

"She IS? Alone?"

"So she says."

"To leave you here? Why! well, I'm surprised."

"Godfreys mighty! so be I. But she says she b'lieves she needs a change
and there's church conference up there, you know, and she figgers that
she ain't been to conference she don't know when. I s'pose you'll go,
won't you, Mr. Ellery?"

"Probably."

"Um--hm. I kind of wisht I was goin' myself. 'Twill be kind of lonesome
round home without her."

Considering that that variety of lonesomeness had been Abishai's dream
of paradise for years, Ellery thought his change of heart a good joke
and told Keziah of it when he returned to the parsonage. The housekeeper
was greatly surprised.

"Well! well! well!" she exclaimed. "Miracles'll never cease. I don't
wonder so much at Laviny wantin' to go to conference, but her darin' to
go and leave Kyan at home is past belief. Why, every time she's had
a cold her one fear was that she'd die and leave 'Bish behind to be
kidnaped by some woman. Kyan himself was sick once, and the story was
that his sister set side of the bed night and day and read him over and
over again that chapter in the Bible that says there's no marryin' or
givin' in marriage in heaven. Dr. Parker told me that he didn't believe
'Bish got ha'f the comfort out of that passage that she did. And now
she's goin' to Sandwich and leave him. I can't think it's true."

But it was true, and Lavinia got herself elected a delegate and went, in
company with Captain Elkanah, Mrs. Mayo, and others, to the conference.
She was a faithful attendant at the meetings and seemed to be having
a very good time. She introduced the minister to one Caleb Pratt, a
resident of Sandwich, whom she said she had known ever since she was a
girl.

"Mr. Pratt's a cousin to Thankful Payne over to home," volunteered
Lavinia. "You know Thankful, Mr. Ellery."

Ellery did know Mrs. Payne and said so. Mr. Pratt, who was dressed in a
new suit of black which appeared to hurt him, imparted the information
that he'd heard tell consider'ble of Mr. Ellery.

"I enjoyed your sermon to-night fust--rate," he added solemnly.
"Fust--rate, sir--yes."

"Did you, indeed? I'm glad."

"Yes, sir. You used words in that sermon that I never heard afore in my
life. 'Twas grand."

Lavinia confided to her pastor that Mr. Pratt made the best shoes in
Ostable County. He could fit ANY kind of feet, she declared, and the
minister ought to try him sometime. She added that he had money in the
bank.

The Reverend John rode home in the stage beside Miss Annabel, not from
choice, but because the young lady's father insisted upon it. Miss
Daniels gushed and enthused as she always did. As they drove by the
Corners the minister, who had been replying absently to Annabel's
questions, suddenly stopped short in the middle of a sentence. His
companion, leaning forward to look out of the window, saw Grace Van
Horne entering the store. For an instant Annabel's face wore a very
unpleasant expression. Then she smiled and said, in her sweetest manner:

"Why, there's the tavern girl! I haven't seen her for sometime. How old
she looks! I suppose her uncle's death has aged her. Well, she'll
be married soon, just as soon as Cap'n Nat gets back. They perfectly
worship each other, those two. They say she writes him the longest
letters. Hannah Poundberry told me. Hannah's a queer creature and
common, but devoted to the Hammonds, Mr. Ellery. However, you're not
interested in Come-Outers, are you? Ha, ha!"

Ellery made some sort of an answer, but he could not have told what it
was. The sight of Grace had brought back all that he was trying so
hard to forget. Why couldn't one forget, when it was so painful--and so
useless--to remember?

Spring once more; then summer. And now people were again speaking of
Captain Nat Hammond. His ship was overdue, long overdue. Even in those
days, when there were no cables and the telegraph was still something of
a novelty, word of his arrival should have reached Trumet months before
this. But it had not come, and did not. Before the summer was over, the
wise heads of the retired skippers were shaking dubiously. Something had
happened to the Sea Mist, something serious.

As the weeks and months went by without news of the missing vessel,
this belief became almost a certainty. At the Come-Outer chapel, where
Ezekiel Bassett now presided, prayers were offered for the son of their
former leader. These prayers were not as fervent as they might have
been, for Grace's nonattendance at meetings was causing much comment
and a good deal of resentment. She came occasionally, but not often. "I
always said she was stuck-up and thought she was too good for the rest
of us," remarked "Sukey B." spitefully. "'And, between you and me, pa
says he thinks Nat Hammond would be one to uphold her in it. He wa'n't a
bit spirituous and never experienced religion. If anything HAS happened
to him, it's a punishment sent, that's what pa thinks."

Those were gloomy days at the parsonage. Keziah said little concerning
the topic of which all the village was talking, and John Ellery
forebore to mention it. The housekeeper was as faithful as ever in the
performance of her household duties, but her smile had gone and she
was worn and anxious. The minister longed to express his sympathy, but
Keziah had not mentioned Nat's name for months, not since he, Ellery,
gave her the message intrusted to him by the captain before sailing. He
would have liked to ask about Grace, for he knew Mrs. Coffin visited the
Hammond home occasionally, but this, too, he hesitated to do. He heard
from others that the girl was bearing the suspense bravely, that she
refused to give up hope, and was winning the respect of all the thinking
class in Trumet by her courage and patience. Even the most bigoted of
the Regulars, Captain Daniels and his daughter excepted of course, had
come to speak highly of her. "She's a spunky girl," declared Captain
Zeb, with emphasis. "There's nothing of the milk-sop and cry-baby about
her. She's fit to be a sailor's wife, and I only hope Nat's alive to
come back and marry her. He was a durn good feller, too--savin' your
presence, Mr. Ellery--and if he was forty times a Come-Outer I'd say the
same thing. I'm 'fraid he's gone, though, poor chap. As good a seaman
as he was would have fetched port afore this if he was atop of water.
As for Gracie, she's a brick, and a lady, every inch of her. My old
girl went down t'other day to call on her and that's the fust Come-Outer
she's been to see sence there was any. Why don't you go see her, too,
Mr. Ellery? 'Twould be a welcome change from Zeke Bassett and his tribe.
Go ahead! it would be the Almighty's own work and the society'd stand
back of you, all them that's wuth considerin', anyhow."

This was surprising advice from a member of the Regular and was
indicative of the changed feeling in the community, but the minister, of
course, could not take it. He had plunged headlong into his church work,
hoping that it and time would dull the pain of his terrible shock and
disappointment. It had been dulled somewhat, but it was still there, and
every mention of her name revived it.

One afternoon Keziah came into his study, where he was laboring with his
next Sunday sermon, and sat down in the rocking-chair. She had been out
and still wore her bonnet and shawl.

"John," she said, "I ask your pardon for disturbin' you. I know you're
busy."

Ellery laid down his pen. "Never too busy to talk with you, Aunt
Keziah," he observed. "What is it?"

"I wanted to ask if you knew Mrs. Prince was sick?"

"No. Is she? I'm awfully sorry. Nothing serious, I hope?"

"No, I guess not. Only she's got a cold and is kind of under the
weather. I thought p'r'aps you'd like to run up and see her. She thinks
the world and all of you, 'cause you was so good when she was distressed
about her son. Poor old thing! she's had a hard time of it."

"I will go. I ought to go, of course. I'm glad you reminded me of it."

"Yes. I told her you hadn't meant to neglect her, but you'd been busy
fussin' with the fair and the like of that."

"That was all. I'll go right away. Have you been there to-day?"

"No. I just heard that she was ailin' from Didama Rogers. Didama said
she was all but dyin', so I knew she prob'ly had a little cold, or
somethin'. If she was really very bad, Di would have had her buried by
this time, so's to be sure her news was ahead of anybody else's. I ain't
been up there, but I met her t'other mornin'."

"Didama?"

"No; Mrs. Prince. She'd come down to see Grace."

"Oh."

"Yes. The old lady's been awful kind and sympathizin' since--since
this new trouble. It reminds her of the loss of her own boy, I presume
likely, and so she feels for Grace. John, what do they say around town
about--about HIM?"

"Captain Hammond?"

"Yes."

The minister hesitated. Keziah did not wait for him to answer.

"I see," she said slowly. "Do they all feel that way?"

"Why, if you mean that they've all given up hope, I should hardly say
that. Captain Mayo and Captain Daniels were speaking of it in my hearing
the other day and they agreed that there was still a chance."

"A pretty slim one, though, they cal'lated, didn't they?"

"Well, they were--were doubtful, of course. There was the possibility
that he had been wrecked somewhere and hadn't been picked up. They cited
several such cases. The South Pacific is full of islands where vessels
seldom touch, and he and his crew may be on one of these."

"Yes. They might, but I'm afraid not. Ah, hum!"

She rose and was turning away. Ellery rose also and laid his hand on her
arm.

"Aunt Keziah," he said, "I'm very sorry. I respected Captain Hammond, in
spite of--of--in spite of everything. I've tried to realize that he was
not to blame. He was a good man and I haven't forgotten that he saved my
life that morning on the flats. And I'm so sorry for YOU."

She did not look at him.

"John," she answered, with a sigh, "sometimes I think you'd better get
another housekeeper."

"What? Are you going to leave me? YOU?"

"Oh, 'twouldn't be because I wanted to. But it seems almost as if there
was a kind of fate hangin' over me and that," she smiled faintly, "as if
'twas sort of catchin', as you might say. Everybody I ever cared for has
had somethin' happen to 'em. My brother died; my--the man I married went
to the dogs; then you and Grace had to be miserable and I had to help
make you so; I sent Nat away and he blamed me and--"

"No, no. He didn't blame you. He sent you word that he didn't."

"Yes, but he did, all the same. He must have. I should if I'd been in
his place. And now he's dead, and won't ever understand--on this earth,
anyhow. I guess I'd better clear out and leave you afore I spoil your
life."

"Aunt Keziah, you're my anchor to windward, as they say down here. If
I lost you, goodness knows where I should drift. Don't you ever talk of
leaving me again."

"Thank you, John. I'm glad you want me to stay. I won't leave yet
awhile; never--unless I have to."

"Why should you ever have to?"

"Well, I don't know. Yes, I do know, too. John, I had another letter
t'other day."

"You did? From--from that man?"

"Yup, from--" For a moment it seemed as if she were about to pronounce
her husband's name, something she had never done in his presence; but if
she thought of it, she changed her mind.

"From him," she said. "He wanted money, of course; he always does. But
that wa'n't the worst. The letter was from England, and in it he wrote
that he was gettin' sick of knockin' around and guessed he'd be for
comin' to the States pretty soon and huntin' me up. Said what was the
use of havin' an able-bodied wife if she couldn't give her husband a
home."

"The scoundrel!"

"Yes, I know what he is, maybe full as well as you do. That's why I
spoke of leavin' you. If that man comes to Trumet, I'll go, sure as
death."

"No, no. Aunt Keziah, you must free yourself from him. No power on earth
can compel you to longer support such a--"

"None on earth, no. But it's my punishment and I've got to put up with
it. I married him with my eyes wide open, done it to spite the--the
other, as much as anything, and I must bear the burden. But I tell you
this, John: if he comes here, to this town, where I've been respected
and considered a decent woman, if he comes here, I go--somewhere,
anywhere that'll be out of the sight of them that know me. And wherever
I go he shan't be with me. THAT I won't stand! I'd rather die, and I
hope I do. Don't talk to me any more now--don't! I can't stand it."

She hurried out of the room. Later, as the minister passed through the
dining room on his way to the door, she spoke to him again.

"John," she said, "I didn't say what I meant to when I broke in on you
just now. I meant to tell you about Grace. I knew you'd like to know and
wouldn't ask. She's bearin' up well, poor girl. She thought the world of
Nat, even though she might not have loved him in the way that--"

"What's that? What are you saying, Aunt Keziah?"

"I mean--well, I mean that he'd always been like an own brother to her
and she cared a lot for him."

"But you said she didn't love him."

"Did I? That was a slip of the tongue, maybe. But she bears it well and
I don't think she gives up hope. I try not to, for her sake, and I try
not to show her how I feel."

She sewed vigorously for a few moments. Then she said:

"She's goin' away, Gracie is."

"Going away?"

"Yup. She's goin' to stay with a relation of the Hammonds over in
Connecticut for a spell. I coaxed her into it. Stayin' here at home
with all this suspense and with Hannah Poundberry's tongue droppin'
lamentations like kernels out of a corn sheller, is enough to kill a
healthy batch of kittens with nine lives apiece. She didn't want to go;
felt that she must stay here and wait for news; but I told her we'd get
news to her as soon as it come, and she's goin'."

Ellery took his hat from the peg and opened the door. His foot was on
the step when Keziah spoke again.

"She--it don't mean nothin', John, except that she ain't so hard-hearted
as maybe you might think--she's asked me about you 'most every time I've
been there. She told me to take good care of you."

The door closed. Keziah put down her sewing and listened as the
minister's step sounded on the walk. She rose, went to the window
and looked after him. She was wondering if she had made a mistake in
mentioning Grace's name. She had meant to cheer him with the thought
that he was not entirely forgotten, that he was, at least, pitied; but
perhaps it would have been better to have remained silent. Her gaze
shifted and she looked out over the bay, blue and white in the sun and
wind. When she was a girl the sea had been kind to her, it had brought
her father home safe, and those homecomings were her pleasantest
memories. But she now hated it. It was cruel and cold and wicked. It had
taken the man she loved and would have loved till she died, even though
he could never have been hers, and she had given him to another; it had
taken him, killed him cruelly, perhaps. And now it might be bringing to
her the one who was responsible for all her sorrow, the one she could
not think of without a shudder. She clung to the window sash and prayed
aloud.

"Lord! Lord!" she pleaded, "don't put any more on me now. I couldn't
stand it! I couldn't!"

Ellery, too, was thinking deeply as he walked up the main road on his
way to Mrs. Prince's. Keziah's words were repeating themselves over and
over in his brain. She had asked about him. She had not forgotten him
altogether. And what did the housekeeper mean by saying that she had
not loved Captain Hammond in the way that--Not that it could make any
difference. Nothing could give him back his happiness. But what did it
mean?

Mrs. Prince was very glad to see him. He found her in the big armchair
with the quilted back and the projecting "wings" at each side of her
head. She was wrapped in a "Rising Sun" quilt which was a patchwork
glory of red and crimson. A young girl, a neighbor, who was apparently
acting in the dual capacity of nurse and housekeeper, admitted him to
the old lady's presence.

"Well, well!" she exclaimed delightedly. "Then you ain't forgot me
altogether. I'm awful glad to see you. You'll excuse me for not gettin'
up; my back's got more pains in it than there is bones, a good sight.
Dr. Parker says it's nothin' serious, and all I had to do was set still
and take his medicine. I told him that either the aches or the medicine
made settin' still serious enough, and when your only amusement is
listenin' to Emeline Berry--she's the girl that's takin' care of
me--when your only fun is listenin' to Emeline drop your best dishes in
the kitchen sink, it's pretty nigh tragic. There! there! don't mind an
old woman, Mr. Ellery. Set down and let's talk. It's a comfort to be
able to say somethin' besides 'Don't, Emeline!' and 'Be sure you pick up
all the pieces!'"

Mrs. Prince's good spirits were of short duration. Her conversation soon
shifted to the loss of her son and she wept, using the corner of the
quilt to wipe away her tears. "Eddie" had been her idol and, as she
said, it was hard to believe what folks kept tellin' her, that it was
God's will, and therefore all for the best.

"That's so easy to say," she sobbed. "Maybe it is best for the Lord,
but how about me? I needed him more than they did up there, or I think I
did. O Mr. Ellery, I don't mean to be irreverent, but WHY was it all for
the best?"

Questions like this are hard to answer. The young minister tried, but
the answers were unsatisfactory, even to him.

"And there's Nat Hammond," continued Mrs. Prince. "A fine man--no better
anywhere, even though his father was a Come-Outer--just goin' to
be married and all, now they say he's drowned--why? Why was that
necessary?"

Ellery could not reply. The old lady did not wait for him to do so. The
mention of Captain Nat's name reminded her of other things.

"Poor Gracie!" she said. "It's turrible hard on her. I went down to see
her two or three times afore I was took with this backache. She's an
awful nice girl. And pretty as a pink, too. Don't you think so? Hey?
don't you?"

"Yes."

"Yes. I've been kind of expectin' she might get up to see me. Hannah
Poundberry told the Berrys that she said she was comin'. I don't care
about her bein' a Come-Outer. I ain't proud, Mr. Ellery. And there's
Come-Outers and COME-Outers. Proud! Lord 'a' mercy! what has an old
woman, next door to the poorhouse, got to be proud over? Yes, she told
Hannah she was comin', and the Berry folks thought it might be to-day.
So I've been watchin' for her. What! you ain't agoin', Mr. Ellery?"

"I think I must, Mrs. Prince."

"Oh, don't! Do stay a spell longer. Gracie might come and I'd like
for you to meet her. She needs sympathy and comfort an awful lot, and
there's no tellin', you might convert her to bein' a Reg'lar. Oh, yes,
you might. You've got the most persuadin' way, everybody says so. And
you don't know her very well, do you? Land sakes alive! talk about
angels! I snum if she ain't comin' up the road this blessed minute."

John Ellery had risen. Now he seized his hat and moved hastily toward
the door. Mrs. Prince called to him to remain, but he would not.
However, her good-bys delayed him for a minute, and before he reached
the yard gate Grace was opening it. They were face to face for the first
time since they had parted in the grove, so many months before.

She was thinner and paler, he saw that. And dressed very quietly in
black. She looked at him, as he stood before her in the path, and her
cheeks flushed and her eyes fell. He stepped aside and raised his hat.

She bowed gravely and murmured a "Good afternoon." Then she passed on up
the path toward the door. He watched her for an instant and then stepped
quickly after her. The black gown and the tired look in her eyes touched
him to the heart. He could not let her go without a word.

She turned at the sound of his step behind her.

"Er--Miss Van Horne," he stammered, "I merely wanted to tell you how
deeply I--we all feel for you in your trouble. I--I--I am so sorry."

"Thank you," she said simply, and after a moment's hesitation.

"I mean it sincerely. I--I did not know Captain Hammond very well, but
I respected and liked him the first time we met. I shall hope
that--that--it is not so serious as they fear."

"Thank you," she said again. "We are all hoping."

"Yes. I--I--" It was dreadfully hard to get words together. "I have
heard so much of the captain from--"

"From Aunt Keziah? Yes, she was Nat's warmest friend."

"I know. Er--Mrs. Coffin tells me you are going away. I hope you may
hear good news and soon. I shall think of you--of him--I want you to
understand that I shall."

The door opened and Emeline Berry appeared on the threshold.

"Come right in, Grace," she called. "Mrs. Prince wants you to. She's
ahollerin' for you to hurry up."

"Good-by," said the minister.

"Good-by. Thank you again. It was very kind of you to say this."

"No, no. I mean it."

"I know; that was why it was so kind. Good-by."

She held out her hand and he took it. He knew that his was trembling,
but so, too, was hers. The hands fell apart. Grace entered the house and
John Ellery went out at the gate.

That night Keziah, in the sitting room, trying to read, but finding
it hard to keep her mind on the book, heard her parson pacing back and
forth over the straw-matted floor of his chamber. She looked at
the clock; it was nearly twelve. She shut the book and sighed. Her
well-meant words of consolation had been a mistake, after all. She
should not have spoken Grace Van Horne's name.


CHAPTER XVI

IN WHICH THE MINISTER BOARDS THE SAN JOSE


"Hey, Mr. Ellery!"

It was Captain Zeb Mayo who was calling. The captain sat in his antique
chaise, drawn by the antique white horse, and was hailing the parsonage
through a speaking trumpet formed by holding both his big hands before
his mouth. The reins he had tucked between the edge of the dashboard and
the whip socket. If he had thrown them on the ground he would still have
been perfectly safe, with that horse.

"Mr. Ellery, ahoy!" roared Captain Zeb through his hands.

The window of Zoeth Peters's house, next door to the Regular church,
was thrown up and Mrs. Peters's head, bound with a blue-and-white
handkerchief in lieu of a sweeping cap, was thrust forth into the crisp
March air.

"What is it, Cap'n Mayo?" screamed Mrs. Peters. "Hey?"

"Hey?" repeated Captain Zeb, peering round the chaise curtain. "Who's
that?"

"It's me. Is somebody dead?"

"Who's me? Oh! No, Hettie, nobody's dead, though I'm likely to bust a
blood vessel if I keep on yellin' much longer. Is the parson to home?"

"Hey?"

"Oh, heavens alive! I say is--Ha, there you be, Mr. Ellery. Mornin',
Keziah."

The minister and Mrs. Coffin, the former with a napkin in his hand, had
emerged from the side door of the parsonage and now came hurrying down
to the gate.

"Land of Goshen!" exclaimed the captain, "you don't mean to tell me
you ain't done breakfast yet, and it after seven o'clock. Why, we're
thinkin' about dinner up to our house."

Keziah answered. "Yes," she said, "I shouldn't wonder. Your wife tells
me, Zeb, that the only time you ain't thinkin' about dinner is when you
think of breakfast or supper. We ain't so hungry here that we get up
to eat in the middle of the night. What's the matter? Hettie Peters is
hollerin' at you; did you know it?"

"Did I know it? Tut! tut! tut! I'd known it if I was a mile away, 'less
I was paralyzed in my ears. Let her holler; 'twill do her good and keep
her in practice for Come-Outer meetin'. Why, Mr. Ellery, I tell you:
Em'lous Sparrow, the fish peddler, stepped up to our house a few minutes
ago. He's just come down from the shanties over on the shore by the
light--where the wreck was, you know--and he says there's a 'morphrodite
brig anchored three or four mile off and she's flyin' colors ha'f mast
and union down. They're gettin' a boat's crew together to go off to
her and see what's the row. I'm goin' to drive over and I thought maybe
you'd like to go along. I told the old lady--my wife, I mean--that I
thought of pickin' you up and she said 'twas a good idee. Said my likin'
to cruise with a parson in my old age was either a sign that I was
hopeful or fearful, she didn't know which; and either way it ought to be
encouraged. He, he, he! What do you say, Mr. Ellery? Want to go?"

The minister hesitated. "I'd like to," he said. "I'd like to very much.
But I ought to work on my sermon this morning."

Keziah cut in here. "Cat's foot!" she sniffed. "Let your sermon go for
this once, do. If it ain't long enough as it is, you can begin again
when you've got to the end and preach it over again. Didama Rogers said,
last circle day, that she could set still and hear you preach right over
n' over. I'd give her a chance, 'specially if it did keep her still.
Keepin' Didama still is good Christian work, ain't it, Zeb?"

Captain Mayo slapped his knee. "He, he, he!" he chuckled. "Cal'late
you're right, Keziah."

"Indeed, I am. I believe it would be Christianity and I KNOW 'twould be
work. There! there! run in and get your coat and hat, Mr. Ellery. I'll
step across and ease Hettie's mind and--and lungs."

She went across the road to impart the news of the vessel in distress to
the curious Mrs. Peters. A moment later the minister, having donned
his hat and coat, ran down the walk and climbed into the chaise beside
Captain Zeb. The white horse, stimulated into a creaky jog trot by
repeated slappings of the reins and roars to "Get under way!" and "Cast
off!" moved along the sandy lane.

During the drive the captain and his passenger discussed various topics
of local interest, among them Captain Nat Hammond and the manner in
which he might have lost his ship and his life. It was now taken for
granted, in Trumet and elsewhere, that Nat was dead and would never be
heard from again. The owners had given up, so Captain Zeb said, and
went on to enumerate the various accidents which might have
happened--typhoons, waterspouts, fires, and even attacks by Malay
pirates--though, added the captain, "Gen'rally speakin', I'd ruther not
bet on any pirate gettin' away with Nat Hammond's ship, if the skipper
was alive and healthy. Then there's mutiny and fevers and collisions,
and land knows what all. And, speakin' of trouble, what do you cal'late
ails that craft we're goin' to look at now?"

They found a group on the beach discussing that very question. A few
fishermen, one or two lobstermen and wreckers, and the lightkeeper were
gathered on the knoll by the lighthouse. They had a spyglass, and a
good-sized dory was ready for launching.

"Where is she, Noah?" asked Captain Zeb of the lightkeeper. "That her
off back of the spar buoy? Let me have a squint through that glass;
my eyes ain't what they used to be, when I could see a whale spout two
miles t'other side of the sky line and tell how many barrels of ile he'd
try out, fust look. Takes practice to keep your eyesight so's you can
see round a curve like that," he added, winking at Ellery.

"She's a brigantine, Zeb," observed the keeper, handing up the spyglass.
"And flyin' the British colors. Look's if she might be one of them salt
boats from Turk's Islands. But what she's doin' out there, anchored,
with canvas lowered and showin' distress signals in fair weather like
this, is more'n any of us can make out. She wa'n't there last evenin',
though, and she is there now."

"She ain't the only funny thing along shore this mornin', nuther,"
announced Theophilus Black, one of the fishermen. "Charlie Burgess just
come down along and he says there's a ship's longboat hauled up on the
beach, 'bout a mile 'n a half t'other side the mouth of the herrin'
crick yonder. Oars in her and all. And she ain't no boat that b'longs
round here, is she, Charlie?"

"No, Thoph, she ain't," was the reply. "Make anything out of her,
cap'n?"

Captain Zeb, who had been inspecting the anchored vessel through
the spyglass, lowered the latter and seemed puzzled. "Not much," he
answered. "Blessed if she don't look abandoned to me. Can't see a sign
of life aboard her."

"We couldn't neither," said Thoph. "We was just cal'latin' to go off to
her when Charlie come and told us about the longboat. I guess likely we
can go now; it's pretty nigh smooth as a pond. You'll take an oar, won't
you, Noah?"

"I can't leave the light very well. My wife went over to the village
last night. You and Charlie and Bill go. Want to go, too, Zeb?"

"No, I'll stay here, I guess. The old lady made me promise to keep my
feet dry afore I left the house."

"You want to go, Mr. Ellery? Lots of room."

The minister was tempted. The sea always had a fascination for him and
the mystery of the strange ship was appealing.

"Sure I won't be in the way?"

"No, no! 'course you won't," said Burgess. "Come right along. You set in
the bow, if you don't mind gettin' sprinkled once in a while. I'll steer
and Thoph and Bill'll row. That'll be enough for one dory. If we need
more, we'll signal. Heave ahead."

The surf, though low for that season of the year, looked dangerous to
Ellery, but his companions launched the dory with the ease which comes
of experience. Burgess took the steering oar and Thoph and "Bill," the
latter a lobsterman from Wellmouth Neck, bent their broad backs for the
long pull. The statement concerning the pondlike smoothness of the sea
was something of an exaggeration. The dory climbed wave after wave, long
and green and oily, at the top of each she poised, tipped and slid down
the slope. The minister, curled up in the bow on a rather uncomfortable
cushion of anchor and roding, caught glimpses of the receding shore over
the crests behind. One minute he looked down into the face of Burgess,
holding the steering oar in place, the next the stern was high above him
and he felt that he was reclining on the back of his neck. But always
the shoulders of the rowers moved steadily in the short, deep strokes
of the rough water oarsman, and the beach, with the white light and
red-roofed house of the keeper, the group beside it, and Captain Zeb's
horse and chaise, grew smaller and less distinct.

"Humph!" grunted Charlie.

"What's the matter?" asked Thoph.

The steersman, who was staring hard in the direction they were going,
scowled.

"Humph!" he grunted again. "I swan to man, fellers, I believe she IS
abandoned!"

"Rubbish!" panted Bill, twisting his neck to look over his shoulder.
"'Course she ain't! Who'd abandon a craft such weather's this, and
Province-town harbor only three hours' run or so?"

"When it comes to that," commented Burgess, "why should they anchor off
here, 'stead of takin' her in by the inlet? If there's anybody aboard
they ain't showed themselves yet. She might have been leakin', but she
don't look it. Sets up out of water pretty well. Well, we'll know in a
few minutes. Hit her up, boys!"

The rowers "hit her up" and the dory moved faster. Then Burgess, putting
his hand to his mouth, hailed.

"Ship ahoy!" he roared. "Ahoy!"

No reply.

"Ahoy the brig!" bellowed Burgess. "What's the matter aboard there? All
hands asleep?"

Still no answer. Thoph and Bill pulled more slowly now. Burgess nodded
to them.

"Stand by!" he ordered. "Easy! Way enough! Let her run."

The dory slackened speed, turned in obedience to the steering oar, and
slid under the forequarter of the anchored vessel. Ellery, looking up,
saw her name in battered gilt letters above his head--the San Jose.

"Stand by, Thoph!" shouted Charlie. "S'pose you can jump and grab her
forechains? Hold her steady, Bill. Now, Thoph! That's the time!"

Thoph had jumped, seized the chains, and was scrambling aboard. A moment
later he appeared at the rail amidships, a rope in his hand. The dory
was brought alongside and made fast; then one after the other the men in
the boat climbed to the brig's deck.

"Ahoy!" yelled Burgess. "All hands on deck! tumble up, you lubbers!
Humph! She is abandoned, sure and sartin."

"Yup," assented Bill. "Her boats are gone. See? Guess that explains the
longboat on the beach, Charlie."

"Cal'late it does; but it don't explain why they left her. She ain't
leakin' none to speak of, that's sure. Rides's light's a feather.
Christmas! look at them decks; dirty hogs, whoever they was."

The decks were dirty, and the sails, sloppily furled, were dirty
likewise. The brig, as she rolled and jerked at her anchor rope, was
dirty--and unkempt from stem to stern. To Ellery's mind she made a
lonesome picture, even under the clear, winter sky and bright sunshine.

Thoph led the way aft. The cabin companion door was open and they peered
down.

"Phew!" sniffed Burgess. "She ain't no cologne bottle, is she? Well,
come on below and let's see what'll we see."

The cabin was a "mess," as Bill expressed it. The floor was covered
with scattered heaps of riff-raff, oilskins, coats, empty bottles, and
papers. On the table a box stood, its hinged lid thrown back.

"Medicine chest," said Burgess, examining it. "And rum bottles aplenty.
Somebody's been sick, I shouldn't wonder."

The minister opened the door of one of the little staterooms. The light
which shone through the dirty and tightly closed "bull's-eye" window
showed a tumbled bunk, the blankets soiled and streaked. The smell was
stifling.

"Say, fellers," whispered Thoph, "I don't like this much myself. I'm for
gettin' on deck where the air's better. Somethin's happened aboard this
craft, somethin' serious."

Charlie and Bill nodded an emphatic affirmative.

"Hadn't we better look about a little more?" asked Ellery. "There's
another stateroom there."

He opened the door of it as he spoke. It was, if possible, in a worse
condition than the first. And the odor was even more overpowering.

"Skipper's room," observed Burgess, peeping in. "And that bunk ain't
been slept in for weeks. See the mildew on them clothes. Phew! I'm fair
sick to my stomach. Come out of this."

On deck, in the sunlight, they held another consultation.

"Queerest business ever I see," observed Charlie. "I never--"

"I see somethin' like it once," interrupted Bill. "Down in the Gulf
'twas. I was on the old Fishhawk. Eben Salters's dad from over to
Bayport skippered her. We picked up a West Injy schooner, derelict,
abandoned same as this one, but not anchored, of course. Yeller jack was
the trouble aboard her and--Where you bound, Thoph?"

"Goin' to take a squint at the fo'castle," replied Theophilus, moving
forward. The minister followed him.

The fo'castle hatchway was black and grim. Ellery knelt and peered down.
Here there was practically no light at all and the air was fouler than
that in the cabin.

"See anything, Mr. Ellery?" asked Thoph, looking over his shoulder.

"No, I don't see anything. But I thought--"

He seemed to be listening.

"What did you think?"

"Nothing. I--"

"Hold on! you ain't goin' down there, be you? I wouldn't. No tellin'
what you might find. Well, all right. I ain't curious. I'll stay up here
and you can report."

He stepped over and leaned against the rail. Bill came across the deck
and joined him.

"Where's Charlie?" asked Thoph.

"Gone back to the cabin," was the answer. "Thought likely he might find
some of her papers or somethin' to put us on the track. I told him to
heave ahead; I didn't want no part of it. Too much like that yeller-jack
schooner to suit me. What's become of the parson?"

Thoph pointed to the open hatch.

"Down yonder, explorin' the fo'castle," he replied. "He can have the
job, for all me. Phew! Say, Bill, what IS this we've struck, anyhow?"

Ellery descended the almost perpendicular ladder gingerly, holding on
with both hands. At its foot he stopped and tried to accustom his eyes
to the darkness.

A room perhaps ten feet long, so much he could make out. The floor
strewn, like that of the cabin, with heaps of clothing and odds and
ends. More shapes of clothes hanging up and swaying with the roll of the
brig. A little window high up at the end, black with dirt. And cavities,
bunks in rows, along the walls. A horrible hole.

He took a step toward the center of the room, bending his head to
avoid hitting the fo'castle lantern. Then in one of the bunks something
stirred, something alive. He started violently, controlled himself with
an effort, and stumbled toward the sound.

"What is it?" he whispered. "Who is it? Is anyone there?"

A groan answered him. Then a voice, weak and quavering, said:

"Gimme a drink! Gimme a drink! Can't none of you God-forsaken devils
give me a drink?"

He stooped over the bunk. A man was lying in it, crumpled into a
dreadful heap. He stooped lower, looked, and saw the man's face.

There was a shout from the deck, or, rather, a yell. Then more yells and
the sound of running feet.

"Mr. Ellery!" screamed Burgess, at the hatchway. "Mr. Ellery, for the
Almighty's sake, come up here! Come out of that this minute. Quick!"

The minister knew what was coming, was sure of it as he stepped to the
foot of the ladder, had known it the instant he saw that face.

"Mr. Ellery!" shrieked Burgess. "Mr. Ellery, are you there?"

"Yes, I'm here," answered the minister, slowly. He was fighting with all
his might to keep his nerves under control. His impulse was to leap
up those steps, rush across that deck, spring into the dory and row,
anywhere to get away from the horror of that forecastle.

"Come up!" called Burgess. "Hurry! It's the smallpox! The darned
hooker's rotten with it. For God sakes, come quick!"

He ran to the rail, yelling order to Bill and Thoph, who were
frantically busy with the dory. Ellery began to climb the ladder. His
head emerged into the clean, sweet air blowing across the deck. He drew
a breath to the very bottom of his lungs.

Then from behind and below him came the voice again.

"Gimme a drink!" it wailed. "Gimme a drink of water. Ain't one of you
cussed swabs got decency enough to fetch me a drink? I'm dyin' for a
drink, I tell you. I'm dyin'!"

The minister stood still, his feet on the ladder. The three men by the
rail were working like mad, their faces livid under the sunburn and
their hands trembling. They pushed each other about and swore. They were
not cowards, either. Ellery knew them well enough to know that. Burgess
had, that very winter, pulled a skiff through broken ice in the face
of a wicked no'theaster to rescue an old neighbor whose dory had been
capsized in the bay while he was hauling lobster pots. But now Burgess
was as scared as the rest.

Thoph and Bill sprang over the rail into the boat. Burgess turned and
beckoned to Ellery.

"Come on!" he called. "What are you waitin' for?"

The minister remained where he was.

"Are you sure--" he faltered.

"Sure! Blast it all! I found the log. It ain't been kept for a fortni't,
but there's enough. It's smallpox, I tell you. Two men died of it three
weeks ago. The skipper died right afterwards. The mate--No wonder them
that was left run away as soon as they sighted land. Come on! Do you
want to die, too?"

From the poison pit at the foot of the ladder the man in the bunk called
once more.

"Water!" he screeched. "Water! Are you goin' to leave me, you d--n
cowards?"

"For Heaven sakes!" cried Burgess, clutching the rail, "what's that?"

Ellery answered him. "It's one of them," he said, and his voice sounded
odd in his own ears. "It's one of the crew."

"One of the--Down THERE? Has he--"

"Yes, he has."

"Help! help!" screamed the voice shrilly. "Are you goin' to leave me to
die all alone? He-elp!"

The minister turned. "Hush!" he called, in answer to the voice, "hush!
I'll bring you water in a minute. Burgess," he added, "you and the rest
go ashore. I shall stay."

"You'll stay? You'll STAY? With THAT? You're crazy as a loon. Don't be
a fool, man! Come on! We'll send the doctor and somebody else--some one
that's had it, maybe, or ain't afraid. I am and I'm goin'. Don't be a
fool."

Thoph, from the dory, shouted to know what was the matter. Ellery
climbed the ladder to the deck and walked over to the rail. As he
approached, Burgess fell back a few feet.

"Thoph," said the minister, addressing the pair in the dory, "there is
a sick man down in the forecastle. He has been alone there for hours,
I suppose, certainly since his shipmates ran away. If he is left longer
without help, he will surely die. Some one must stay with him. You and
the rest row ashore and get the doctor and whoever else you can. I'll
stay here till they come."

Thoph and his companions set up a storm of protest. It was foolish, it
was crazy, the man would die anyhow, and so on. They begged the minister
to come with them. But he was firm.

"Don't stop to argue," he urged. "Hurry and get the doctor."

"Come on, Charlie," ordered Bill. "No use talkin' to him, he's set. Come
on! I won't stay alongside this craft another minute for nobody. If you
be comin', come."

Burgess, still protesting, clambered over the rail. The dory swung clear
of the brig. The rowers settled themselves for the stroke.

"Better change your mind, Mr. Ellery," pleaded Charlie. "I hate to leave
you this way. It seems mean, but I'm a married man with children, like
the rest of us here, and I can't take no risks. Better come, too. No?
Well, we'll send help quick as the Lord'll let us. By the Almighty!" he
added, in a sudden burst, "you've got more spunk than I have--yes, or
anybody I ever come across. I'll say that for you, if you are a parson.
Give way, fellers."

The oars dipped, bent, and the dory moved off. The sound of the creaking
thole pins shot a chill through Ellery's veins. His knees shook, and
involuntarily a cry for them to come back rose to his lips. But he
choked it down and waved his hand in farewell. Then, not trusting
himself to look longer at the receding boat, he turned on his heel and
walked toward the forecastle.

The water butts stood amidships, not far from the open door of the
galley. Entering the latter he found an empty saucepan. This he filled
from the cask, and then, with it in his hand, turned toward the black
hatchway. Here was the greatest test of his courage. To descend that
ladder, approach that bunk, and touch the terrible creature in it, these
were the tasks he had set himself to do, but could he?

Vaccination in those days was by no means the universal custom that it
now is. And smallpox, even now, is a disease the name of which strikes
panic to a community. The minister had been vaccinated when he was a
child, but that was--so it seemed to him--a very long time ago. And
that forecastle was so saturated with the plague that to enter it meant
almost certain infection. He had stayed aboard the brig because the
pitiful call for help had made leaving a cowardly impossibility. Now,
face to face, and in cold blood, with the alternative, it seemed neither
so cowardly or impossible. The man would die anyhow, so Thoph had said;
was there any good reason why he should risk dying, too, and dying in
that way?

He thought of a great many things and of many people as he stood by the
hatchway, waiting; among others, he thought of his housekeeper,
Keziah Coffin. And, somehow, the thought of her, of her pluck, and her
self-sacrifice, were the very inspirations he needed. "It's the duty
that's been laid on me," Keziah had said, "and it's a hard one, but I
don't run away from it." He began to descend the ladder.

The sick man was raving in delirium when he reached him, but the sound
of the water lapping the sides of the saucepan brought him to himself.
He seized Ellery by the arm and drank and drank. When at last he
desisted, the pan was half empty.

The minister laid him gently back in the bunk and stepped to the foot of
the ladder for breath. This made him think of the necessity for air in
the place and he remembered the little window. It was tightly closed
and rusted fast. He went up to the deck, found a marlin spike, and,
returning, broke the glass. A sharp, cold draught swept through the
forecastle, stirring the garments hanging on the nails.

An hour later, two dories bumped against the side of the San Jose. Men,
talking in low tones, climbed over the rail. Burgess was one of them;
ashamed of his panic, he had returned to assist the others in bringing
the brigantine into a safer anchorage by the inlet.

Dr. Parker, very grave but businesslike, reached the deck among the
first.

"Mr. Ellery," he shouted, "where are you?"

The minister's head and shoulders appeared at the forecastle companion.
"Here I am, doctor," he said. "Will you come down?"

The doctor made no answer in words, but he hurried briskly across the
deck. One man, Ebenezer Capen, an old fisherman and ex-whaler from
East Trumet, started to follow him, but he was the only one. The others
waited, with scared faces, by the rail.

"Get her under way and inshore as soon as you can," ordered Dr. Parker.
"Ebenezer, you can help. If I need you below, I'll call."

The minister backed down the ladder and the doctor followed him. Parker
bent over the bunk for a few moments in silence.

"He's pretty bad," he muttered. "Mighty little chance. Heavens, what a
den! Who broke that window?"

"I did," replied Ellery. "The air down here was dreadful."

The doctor nodded approvingly. "I guess so," he said. "It's bad enough
now. We've got to get this poor fellow out of here as soon as we can or
he'll die before to-morrow. Mr. Ellery," he added sharply, "what made
you do this? Don't you realize the risk you've run?"

"Some one had to do it. You are running the same risk."

"Not just the same, and, besides, it's my business. Why didn't you let
some one else, some one we could spare--Humph! Confound it, man! didn't
you know any better? Weren't you afraid?"

His tone rasped Ellery's shaken nerves.

"Of course I was," he snapped irritably. "I'm not an idiot."

"Humph! Well, all right; I beg your pardon. But you oughtn't to have
done it. Now you'll have to be quarantined. And who in thunder I can get
to stay with me in this case is more than I know. Just say smallpox to
this town and it goes to pieces like a smashed egg. Old Eb Capen will
help, for he's had it, but it needs more than one."

"Where are you going to take--him?" pointing to the moaning occupant of
the bunk.

"To one of the empty fish shanties on the beach. There are beds there,
such as they are, and the place is secluded. We can burn it down when
the fuss is over."

"Then why can't I stay? I shall have to be quarantined, I know that. Let
me be the other nurse. Why should anyone else run the risk? I HAVE run
it. I'll stay."

Dr. Parker looked at him. "Well!" he exclaimed. "Well! I must say, young
man, that you've got--Humph! All right, Mr. Ellery; I'm much obliged."


CHAPTER XVII

IN WHICH EBENEZER CAPEN IS SURPRISED


Before sunset that afternoon the San Jose was anchored behind the point
by the inlet. The fishing boats changed moorings and moved farther
up, for not a single one of their owners would trust himself within a
hundred yards of the stricken brigantine. As soon as the anchors were
dropped, the volunteer crew was over side and away, each of its members
to receive a scolding from his family for taking such a risk and to have
his garments sulphur-smoked or buried. Charlie Burgess, whose wife was
something of a Tartar, observed ruefully that he "didn't take no comfort
'round home nowadays; between the smell of brimstone and the jawin's
'twas the hereafter ahead of time."

The largest of the beach shanties, one which stood by itself a quarter
of a mile from the light, was hurriedly prepared for use as a pesthouse
and the sick sailor was carried there on an improvised stretcher.
Dr. Parker and Ellery lifted him from his berth and, assisted by old
Ebenezer Capen, got him up to the deck and lowered him into the dory.
Ebenezer rowed the trio to the beach and the rest of the journey was
comparatively easy.

The shanty had three rooms, one of which was given up to the patient,
one used as a living room, and, in the third, Capen and the minister
were to sleep. Mattresses were procured, kind-hearted and sympathizing
townspeople donated cast-off tables and chairs, and the building was
made as comfortable as it could be, under the circumstances. Sign
boards, warning strangers to keep away, were erected, and in addition
to them, the Trumet selectmen ordered ropes stretched across the lane on
both sides of the shanty. But ropes and signs were superfluous. Trumet
in general was in a blue funk and had no desire to approach within a
mile of the locality. Even the driver of the grocery cart, when he left
the day's supply of provisions, pushed the packages under the ropes,
yelled a hurried "Here you be!" and, whipping up his horse, departed at
a rattling gallop.

The village sat up nights to discuss the affair and every day brought
a new sensation. The survivors of the San Jose's crew, a wretched,
panic-stricken quartette of mulattos and Portuguese, were apprehended
on the outskirts of Denboro, the town below Trumet on the bay side,
and were promptly sequestered and fumigated, pending shipment to the
hospital at Boston. Their story was short but grewsome. The brigantine
was not a Turks Islands boat, but a coaster from Jamaica. She had sailed
with a small cargo for Savannah. Two days out and the smallpox made its
appearance on board. The sufferer, a negro foremast hand, died. Then
another sailor was seized and also died. The skipper, who was the owner,
was the next victim, and the vessel was in a state of demoralization
which the mate, an Englishman named Bradford, could not overcome. Then
followed days and nights of calm and terrible heat, of pestilence
and all but mutiny. The mate himself died. There was no one left who
understood navigation. At last came a southeast gale and the San Jose
drove before it. Fair weather found her abreast the Cape. The survivors
ran her in after dark, anchored, and reached shore in the longboat. The
sick man whom they had left in the forecastle was a new hand who had
shipped at Kingston. His name was Murphy, they believed. They had left
him because he was sure to die, like the others, and, besides, they knew
some one would see the distress signals and investigate. That was all,
yes. Santa Maria! was it not enough?

This tale was a delicious tidbit for Didama and the "daily advertisers,"
but, after all, it was a mere side dish compared to Mr. Ellery's
astonishing behavior. That he, the minister of the Regular church,
should risk his life, risk dying of the smallpox, to help a stranger
and a common sailor, was incomprehensible. Didama, at least, could not
understand it, and said so. "My soul and body!" she exclaimed, with
uplifted hands. "I wouldn't go nigh my own grandfather if he had the
smallpox, let alone settin' up with a strange critter that I didn't
know from Adam's cat. And a minister doin' it! He ought to consider the
congregation, if he done nothin' else. Ain't we more important than a
common water rat that, even when he's dyin', swears, so I hear tell,
like a ship's poll parrot? I never heard of such foolishness. It beats
ME!"

It "beat" a good many who, like the Widow Rogers, could not understand
self-sacrifice. But there were more, and they the majority of Trumet's
intelligent people, who understood and appreciated. Dr. Parker, a man
with a reputation for dangerously liberal views concerning religious
matters and an infrequent attendant at church, was enthusiastic and
prodigal of praise.

"By George!" vowed the doctor. "That's MY kind of Christianity. That's
the kind of parson I can tie to. I'm for John Ellery after this, first,
last, and all the time. And if he don't get the smallpox and die, and
if he does live to preach in the Regular church, you'll see me in one of
the front pews every Sunday. That's what I think of him. Everybody else
ran away and I don't blame 'em much. But he stayed. Yes, sir, by George!
he stayed. 'Somebody had to do it,' says he. I take off my hat to that
young fellow."

Captain Zeb Mayo went about cheering for his parson. Mrs. Mayo cooked
delicacies to be pushed under the ropes for the minister's consumption.
The parish committee, at a special session, voted an increase of salary
and ordered a weekly service of prayer for the safe delivery of their
young leader from danger. Even Captain Elkanah did not try to oppose
the general opinion; "although I cannot but feel," he said, "that Mr.
Ellery's course was rash and that he should have considered us and our
interest in his welfare before--"

"Dum it all!" roared Captain Zeb, jumping to his feet and interrupting,
"he didn't consider himself, did he? and ain't he as important TO
himself as you, Elkanah Daniels, or anybody else in this meetin' house?
Bah! don't let's have no more talk like that or I'll say somethin' that
won't be fit to put in the minutes."

Even at Come-Outers' meeting, when Ezekiel Bassett hinted at a "just
punishment fallin' on the head of the leader of the Pharisees," Thoph
Black rose and defended Ellery.

Keziah Coffin was, perhaps, the one person most disturbed by her
parson's heroism. She would have gone to the shanty immediately had not
Dr. Parker prevented. Even as it was, she did go as far as the ropes,
but there she was warded off by Ebenezer until Ellery came running out
and bade her come no nearer.

"But you shan't stay here, Mr. Ellery," vowed Keziah. "Or, if you do,
I'll stay, too. I ain't afraid of smallpox."

"I am," confessed the minister, "and I'm not going to let anyone I care
for expose themselves to it unnecessarily. If you try to come in here I
shall"--he smiled--"well, Capen and I will put you off the premises by
force. There!"

Keziah smiled, too, in spite of herself. "Maybe you'd have your hands
full," she said. "O John, what in the world made you do this thing? It's
dreadful. I shan't sleep a wink, thinkin' of you. I just must come here
and help."

"No, you mustn't. You can come as far as the--the dead line once in
a while, if Captain Mayo will drive you over, but that's all. I'm all
right. Don't worry about me. I'm feeling tiptop and I'm not going to be
sick. Now go home and make me some of that--some of those puddings of
yours. We can use them to advantage, can't we, Capen?"

"Bet yer!" replied Ebenezer with enthusiasm. Keziah, after more
expostulation, went back to the parsonage, where the puddings were made
and seasoned with tears and fervent prayers. She wrote to Grace and told
her the news of the San Jose, but she said nothing of the minister's
part in it. "Poor thing!" sighed Keziah, "she's bearin' enough already.
Her back ain't as strong as mine, maybe, and mine's most crackin'. Well,
let it crack for good and all; I don't know but that's the easiest way
out."

The sick sailor grew no better. Days and nights passed and he raved
and moaned or lay in a stupor. Ebenezer acted as day nurse while Ellery
slept, and, at night, the minister, being younger, went on watch. The
doctor came frequently, but said there was no hope. A question of time
only, and a short time, he said.

Capen occupied his mind with speculations concerning the patient.

"Do you know, parson," he said, "seem's if I'd seen the feller
somewheres afore. 'Course I never have, but when I used to go whalin'
v'yages I cruised from one end of creation to t'other, pretty nigh,
and I MIGHT have met him. However, his own folks wouldn't know him now,
would they? so I cal'late I'm just gettin' foolish in my old age. Said
his name's Murphy, them ha'f-breeds did, didn't they? I know better'n
that."

"How do you know?" asked Ellery, idly listening.

"'Cause when he's floppin' round on the bed, out of his head, he sings
out all kinds of stuff. A good deal of it's plain cussin', but there's
times when he talks respectable and once I heard him say 'darn' and
another time 'I cal'late.' Now no Irishman says THAT. That's Yankee,
that is."

"Well, he ought to know his own name."

"Prob'ly he does--or used to--but 'most likely he don't want nobody else
to know it. That's why he said 'twas Murphy and, bein' as he DID say it,
I know 'tain't it. See my argument, don't you, Mr. Ellery?"

"Yes, I guess so."

"Um--hm! Why, land sakes, names don't mean nothin' with seafarin' men.
I've seen the time when I had more names--Humph! Looks kind of squally
off to the east'ard, don't it?"

That night the sick man was much worse. His ravings were incessant. The
minister, sitting in his chair in the living room, by the cook stove,
could hear the steady stream of shouts, oaths, and muttered fragments of
dialogue with imaginary persons. Sympathy for the sufferer he felt,
of course, and yet he, as well as Dr. Parker and old Capen, had heard
enough to realize that the world would be none the worse for losing this
particular specimen of humanity. The fellow had undoubtedly lived a hard
life, among the roughest of companions afloat and ashore. Even Ebenezer,
who by his own confession, was far from being a saint, exclaimed
disgustedly at the close of a day's watching by the sick bed: "Phew! I
feel's if I'd been visiting state's prison. Let me set out doors a spell
and listen to the surf. It's clean, anyhow, and that critter's talk
makes me want to give my brains a bath."

The wooden clock, loaned by Mrs. Parker, the doctor's wife, ticked
steadily, although a half hour slow. Ellery, glancing at it to see if
the time had come for giving medicine, suddenly noticed how loud its
ticking sounded. Wondering at this, he was aware there was no other
sound in the house. He rose and looked in at the door of the adjoining
room. The patient had ceased to rave and was lying quiet on the bed.

The minister tiptoed over to look at him. And, as he did so, the man
opened his eyes.

"Halloo!" he said faintly. "Who are you?"

Ellery, startled, made no answer.

"Who are you?" demanded the man again. Then, with an oath, he repeated
the question, adding: "What place is this? This ain't the fo'castle.
Where am I?"

"You're ashore. You've been sick. Don't try to move."

"Sick? Humph! Sick? 'Course I been sick. Don't I know it? The d--n
cowards run off and left me; blast their eyes! I'll fix 'em for it one
of these days, you hear--"

"Sshh!"

"Hush up yourself. Where am I?"

"You're ashore. On Cape Cod. At Trumet."

"Trumet! TRUMET!"

He was struggling to raise himself on his elbow. Ellery was obliged to
use force to hold him down.

"Hush! hush!" pleaded the minister, "you mustn't try to--"

"Trumet! I ain't. You're lyin'. Trumet! Good God! Who brought me here?
Did she--Is she--"

He struggled again. Then his strength and his reason left him
simultaneously and the delirium returned. He began to shout a name, a
name that caused Ellery to stand upright and step back from the bed,
scarcely believing his ears.

All the rest of that night the man on the bed raved and muttered, but of
people and places and happenings which he had not mentioned before. And
the minister, listening intently to every word, caught himself wondering
if he also was not losing his mind.

When the morning came, Ebenezer Capen was awakened by a shake to find
John Ellery standing over him.

"Capen," whispered the minister, "Capen, get up. I must talk with you."

Ebenezer was indignant.

"Judas priest!" he exclaimed; "why don't you scare a feller to death,
comin' and yankin' him out of bed by the back hair?" Then, being more
wide awake, he added: "What's the row? Worse, is he? He ain't--"

"No. But I've got to talk with you. You used to be a whaler, I know.
Were you acquainted in New Bedford?"

"Sartin. Was a time when I could have located every stick in it, pretty
nigh, by the smell, if you'd set me down side of 'em blindfold."

"Did you ever know anyone named--" He finished the sentence.

"Sure and sartin, I did. Why?"

"Did you know him well?"

"Well's I wanted to. Pretty decent feller one time, but a fast goer, and
went downhill like a young one's sled, when he got started. His folks
had money, that was the trouble with him. Why, 'course I knew him! He
married--"

"I know. Now, listen."

Ellery went on talking rapidly and with great earnestness. Ebenezer
listened, at first silently, then breaking in with ejaculations and
grunts of astonishment. He sat up on the edge of the bed.

"Rubbish!" he cried at last, "why, 'tain't possible! The feller's dead
as Methusalem's grandmarm. I remember how it happened and--"

"It wasn't true. That much I know. I KNOW, I tell you."

He went on to explain why he knew. Capen's astonishment grew.

"Judas priest!" he exclaimed again. "That would explain why I thought
I'd seen--There! heave ahead. I've got to see. But it's a mistake. I
don't believe it."

The pair entered the sick room. The sailor lay in a stupor. His
breathing was rapid, but faint. Capen bent over him and gently moved the
bandage on his face. For a full minute he gazed steadily. Then he stood
erect, drew a big red hand across his forehead, and moved slowly back to
the living room.

"Well?" asked Ellery eagerly.

Ebenezer sat down in the rocker. "Judas priest!" he said for the third
time. "Don't talk to ME! When it comes my time they'll have to prove I'm
dead. I won't believe it till they do. Ju-das PRIEST!"

"Then you recognize him?"

The old man nodded solemnly.

"Yup," he said, "it's him. Mr. Ellery, what are you goin' to do about
it?"

"I don't know. I don't know. I must go somewhere by myself and think. I
don't know WHAT to do."

The minister declined to wait for breakfast. He said he was not hungry.
Leaving Ebenezer to put on the coffeepot and take up his duties as day
nurse, Ellery walked off along the beach. The "dead line" prevented his
going very far, but he sat down in the lee of a high dune and thought
until his head ached. What should he do? What was best for him to do?

He heard the rattle of the doctor's chaise and the voices of Ebenezer
and Parker in conversation. He did not move, but remained where he was,
thinking, thinking. By and by he heard Capen calling his name.

"Mr. Ellery!" shouted Ebenezer. "Mr. Ellery, where be you?"

"Here!" replied the minister.

The old man came scrambling over the sand. He was panting and much
excited.

"Mr. Ellery!" he cried, "Mr. Ellery! it's settled for us--one part of
it, anyhow. He's slipped his cable."

"What?" The minister sprang up.

"Yup. He must have died just a little while after you left and after I
gave him his medicine. I thought he looked kind of queer then. And when
the doctor came we went in together and he was dead. Yes, sir, dead."

"Dead!"

"Um--hm. No doubt of it; it's for good this time. Mr. Ellery, what shall
we do? Shall I tell Dr. Parker?"

Ellery considered for a moment. "No," he said slowly. "No, Capen, don't
tell anyone. I can't see why they need ever know that he hasn't been
dead for years, as they supposed. Promise me to keep it a secret. I'll
tell--her--myself, later on. Now promise me; I trust you."

"Land sakes, yes! I'll promise, if you want me to. I'm a widower man, so
there'll be nobody to coax it out of me. I guess you're right, cal'late
you be. What folks don't know they can't lie about, can they? and that's
good for your business--meanin' nothin' disreverent. I'll promise, Mr.
Ellery; I'll swear to it. Now come on back to the shanty. The doctor
wants you."

The next day the body of "Murphy," foremast hand on the San Jose, was
buried in the corner of the Regular graveyard, near those who were
drowned in the wreck of that winter. There was no funeral, of course.
The minister said a prayer at the shanty, and that was all. Ebenezer
drove the wagon which was used as hearse for the occasion, and filled in
the grave himself. So great was the fear of the terrible smallpox that
the sexton would not perform even that service for its victim.

Capen remained at the shanty another week. Then, as the minister showed
no symptoms of having contracted the disease and insisted that he needed
no companion, Ebenezer departed to take up his fishing once more. The
old man was provided with a new suit of clothes, those he had worn being
burned, and having been, to his huge disgust, fumigated until, as he
said, he couldn't smell himself without thinking of a match box, went
away. The room which the dead sailor had occupied was emptied and sealed
tight. The San Jose was to stay at her anchorage a while longer. Then,
when all danger was past, she was to be towed to Boston and sold at
auction for the benefit of the heirs of her dead skipper and owner.

Ellery himself was most urgent in the decision that he should not go
back to the parsonage and his church just yet. Better to wait until he
was sure, he said, and Dr. Parker agreed. "I'd be willing to bet that
you are all right," declared the latter, "but I know Trumet, and if I
SHOULD let you go and you did develop even the tail end of a case of
varioloid--well, 'twould be the everlasting climax for you and me in
this county."

Staying alone was not unpleasant, in a way. The "dead line" still
remained, of course, and callers did not attempt to pass it, but they
came more frequently and held lengthy conversations at a respectful
distance. Ellery did his own cooking, what little there was to do, but
so many good things were pushed under the ropes that he was in a fair
way to develop weight and indigestion. Captain Zeb Mayo drove down at
least twice a week and usually brought Mrs. Coffin with him. From them
and from the doctor the prisoner learned the village news. Once Captain
Elkanah and Annabel came, and the young lady's gushing praise of the
minister's "heroism" made its recipient almost sorry he had ever heard
of the San Jose.

Dr. Parker told him of Grace Van Horne's return to the village. She had
come back, so the doctor said, the day before, and was to live at the
tavern for a while, at least. Yes, he guessed even she had given up hope
of Captain Nat now.

"And say," went on Parker, "how are you feeling?"

"Pretty well, thank you," replied the minister. "I seem to be rather
tired and good for nothing. More so than I was during the worst of it."

"No wonder. A chap can't go through what you did and not feel some
reaction. I expected that. Don't get cold, that's all. But what I want
to know is whether you think I could leave you for a couple of days?
The Ostable County Medical Society meets at Hyannis to-morrow and I had
promised myself to take it in this year. But I don't want to leave you,
if you need me."

Ellery insisted that he did not need anyone, was getting along finely,
and would not hear of his friend's missing the medical society's
meeting. So the physician went.

"Good-by," he called as he drove off. "I guess your term is pretty
nearly over. I shall let you out of jail inside of four or five days, if
you behave yourself."

This should have been cheering news, but, somehow, John Ellery did not
feel cheerful that afternoon. The tired feeling he had spoken of so
lightly was worse than he had described it, and he was despondent, for
no particular reason. That night he slept miserably and awoke with a
chill to find a cold, pouring rain beating against the windows of the
shanty.

He could not eat and he could not keep warm, even with the cook-stove
top red hot and a blanket over his shoulders. By noon the chill had
gone and he was blazing with fever. Still the rain and the wind, and no
visitors at the ropes, not even the light-keeper.

He lay down on his bed and tried to sleep, but though he dozed a bit,
woke always with a start and either a chill or fever fit. His head began
to ache violently. And then, in the lonesomeness and misery, fear began
to take hold of him.

He remembered the symptoms the doctor had warned him against, headache,
fever, and all the rest. He felt his wrists and arms and began to
imagine that beneath the skin were the little bunches, like small shot,
that were the certain indications. Then he remembered how that other man
had looked, how he had died. Was he to look that way and die like that?
And he was all alone, they had left him alone.

Night came. The rain had ceased and stars were shining clear. Inside the
shanty the minister tossed on the bed, or staggered back and forth about
the two rooms. He wondered what the time might be; then he did not care.
He was alone. The smallpox had him in its grip. He was alone and he
was going to die. Why didn't some one come? Where was Mrs. Coffin? And
Grace? She was somewhere near him--Parker had said so--and he must see
her before he died. He called her name over and over again.

The wind felt cold on his forehead. He stumbled amidst the beach grass.
What was this thing across his path? A rope, apparently, but why should
there be ropes in that house? There had never been any before. He
climbed over it and it was a climb of hundreds of feet and the height
made him giddy. That was a house, another house, not the one he had been
living in. And there were lights all about. Perhaps one of them was the
light at the parsonage. And a big bell was booming. That was his church
bell and he would be late for the meeting.

Some one was speaking to him. He knew the voice. He had known it always
and would know it forever. It was the voice he wanted to hear. "Grace!"
he called. "Grace! I want you. Don't go! Don't go! Grace! oh, my dear!
don't go!"

Then the voice had gone. No, it had not gone. It was still there and he
heard it speaking to him, begging him to listen, pleading with him to
go somewhere, go back, back to something or other. And there was an arm
about his waist and some one was leading him, helping him. He broke down
and cried childishly and some one cried with him.


Early the next morning, just as day was breaking, a buggy, the horse
which drew it galloping, rocked and bumped down the lighthouse lane.
Dr. Parker, his brows drawn together and his lips set with anxiety, was
driving. He had been roused from sleep in the hotel at Hyannis by a boy
with a telegram. "Come quick," it read. "Mr. Ellery sick." The sender
was Noah Ellis, the lightkeeper. The doctor had hired a fast horse,
ridden at top speed to Bayport, gotten a fresh horse there and hurried
on. He stopped at his own house but a moment, merely to rouse his wife
and ask her if there was any fresh news. But she had not even heard of
the minister's seizure.

"My soul, Will!" she cried, "you don't think it's the smallpox, do you?"

"Lord knows! I'm afraid so," groaned her husband. "WHAT made me leave
him? I ought to have known better. If that boy dies, I'll never draw
another easy breath."

He rushed out, sprang into the buggy, and drove on. At the ropes, early
as it was, he found a small group waiting and gazing at the shanty.
The lightkeeper was there and two or three other men. They were talking
earnestly.

"How is he, Noah?" demanded the doctor, jumping to the ground.

"I don't know, doc," replied Ellis. "I ain't heard sence last night when
I telegraphed you."

"Haven't heard? What do you mean by that? Haven't you been with him?"

"No-o," was the rather sheepish reply. "You see, I--I wanted to, but my
wife's awful scart I'll catch it and--"

"The devil!" Dr. Parker swore impatiently. "Who is with him then? You
haven't left him alone, have you?"

"No-o," Noah hesitated once more. "No-o, he ain't alone. She's there."

"She? Who? Keziah Coffin?"

"I don't cal'late Keziah's heard it yet. We was waitin' for you 'fore we
said much to anybody. But she's there--the--the one that found him. You
see, he was out of his head and wanderin' up the lane 'most to the main
road and she'd been callin' on Keziah and when she come away from the
parsonage she heard him hollerin' and goin' on and--"

"Who did?"

"Why"--the lightkeeper glanced at his companions--"why, doc, 'twas Grace
Van Horne. And she fetched him back to the shanty and then come and got
me to telegraph you."

"Grace Van Horne! Grace Van--Do you mean to say she is there with him
NOW?"

"Yes. She wouldn't leave him. She seemed 'most as crazy's he was. My
wife and me, we--"

But Parker did not wait to hear the rest. He ran at full speed to the
door of the shanty. Grace herself opened it.

"How is he?" demanded the doctor.

"I think he seems a little easier; at any rate, he's not delirious. He's
in there. Oh, I'm so thankful you've come."

"Is that the doctor?" called Ellery weakly from the next room. "Is it?"

"Yes," replied Parker, throwing off his coat and hat. "Coming, Mr.
Ellery."

"For God's sake, doctor, send her away. Don't let her stay. Make her go.
Make her GO! I've got the smallpox and if she stays she will die. Don't
you understand? she MUST go."

"Hush, John," said Grace soothingly. "Hush, dear."

Dr. Parker stopped short and looked at her. She returned the look, but
without the slightest semblance of self-consciousness or embarrassment.
She did not realize that she had said anything unusual, which must
sound inexplicably strange to him. Her thoughts were centered in that
adjoining room and she wondered why he delayed.

"Well?" she asked impatiently. "What is it? Why do you wait?"

The doctor did not answer. However, he waited no longer, but hurried in
to his new patient.


CHAPTER XVIII

IN WHICH KEZIAH DECIDES TO FIGHT


The news was flying from house to house along the main road. Breakfasts
were interrupted as some neighbor rushed in to tell the story which
another neighbor had brought to him or her. Mr. Ellery was very sick
and it was feared he had the smallpox, that was what Mrs. Parker, the
doctor's wife, told those who lived near her. By the time the Corners
heard of it the tale had grown until the minister was said to be dying.
And when it reached Gaius Winslow's home at the upper end of the town he
was reported dead. This was denied, upon investigation, but soon another
rumor grew and spread; Grace Van Horne was with him, had taken him back
to the shanty, and insisted upon staying there until the doctor came.
Facing that dreadful disease and--It was wonderful--and queer.

At the Danielses' house the servant girl rushed into the dining room to
serve the toast and the story at one swoop. Captain Elkanah's dignity
deserted him for an instant and his egg spoon jingled to the floor.
Annabel's face turned a dull red. Her eyes flashed sparks.

"Pa!" she cried, "I--I--if you don't do something now I'll never--"

Her father shook his head warningly. "Debby," he said to the maid, "you
needn't wait."

Debby departed reluctantly. After the kitchen door had closed, Captain
Elkanah said: "My dear, we mustn't be too hasty in this matter.
Remember, Mr. Ellery is very sick. As for--for the Van Horne girl, we
haven't heard the whole truth yet. She may not be there at all, or it
may be just an accident--"

"Accident! Pa, you make me boil. Accident! Accidents like that don't
happen. If you let her stay there, or if--Oh, to think of it! And we
were calling him a hero and--and everything! Hero! he stayed there just
so she might--"

"Hush! hush, child!"

"I shan't hush. Pa, are you going to let him disgrace himself with HER?"

"No, no. Probably there ain't any idea of his marrying her. If there
is--"

"If there is you put him out of the church and out of this town. And
as for HER--O-oh! And we've been having him here at dinner and--and I
have--Oh, I shall die! I wish I WAS dead!"

Then followed hysterics and agony, greedily listened to by Debby, whose
ear was at the crack of the door. Captain Elkanah soothed and pleaded
and tried to pacify. It ended by his promising to investigate and, if
necessary, take steps 'immejitly.'

Lavinia Pepper sprung the mine on her brother. Kyan was horrified. He
had grown to be one of Ellery's most devoted worshipers.

"Smallpox!" he groaned. "The minister got the smallpox. Oh! that's
turrible."

"Ain't it?" observed his sister, also horrified, but rather relishing
the horror. "And if it hadn't been for Gracie Van Horne--"

"WHAT?"

"What's the matter with you? I say, if Gracie Van Horne hadn't happened
to meet him, wanderin' around, crazy as a coot, and toted him back--"

"Gracie--Van--Horne! Godfreys mighty! She--she met him? Where? Down to
Peters's grove, was it?"

"Peters's grove! No. What on earth made you think 'twas there? She'd
been visitin' Keziah Coffin at the parsonage, and when she come out
on the main road she heard him aravin' down the lane. Must have passed
right by this house and we never heard him. I never see such a dead man
as you be when you're asleep. You don't SOUND dead, I'll say that for
you, but nothin' wakes you up."

"Why, Laviny! you never woke up yourself."

"That's right, lay it onto me. I expected you would; it's just like
you. But why in time did you think Grace met the minister way down to
Peters's grove? That's the most loony notion ever I heard, even from
you. What made you think of it?"

"Nothin', nothin'. I guess I WAS loony, maybe. Dear! dear! dear! have
you heard how's he's gettin' on? Is he took bad?"

"I ain't heard nothin' yet, nobody has. But see here, 'Bish Pepper, you
act funny to me. I want to know more about that Peters's grove notion.
WHY did you say it?"

Kyan wriggled upon the rack and dodged and squirmed for the next twenty
minutes. He tried his best to keep the fateful secret, but he admitted
too much, or not enough, and his sister kept up the cross-examination.
At the end of the session she was still unsatisfied, but she was on
the scent and her brother knew it. He fled to the woodshed and there
punctuated his morning task of kindling chopping with groans and awful
forebodings.

One of the very first to hear of the minister's illness was Keziah
Coffin. Mrs. Parker told her and Keziah started for the beach before the
tale of Grace's part in the night's happenings reached the village. She
did not wait for a conveyance, hardly waited to throw a shawl over her
shoulders, but began to cover the three miles on foot. She had walked
nearly two thirds of the distance when Captain Zeb Mayo overtook her and
gave her a seat in his chaise.

They said little during the drive, the shock and anxiety forbidding
conversation. At the ropes was the same group, larger now, and Dr.
Parker's horse was hitched to one of the posts.

"You can't go in, Mrs. Coffin," said Thoph Black. "The doctor give us
his orders not to let nobody get by. I guess nobody wants to, but all
the same--"

Keziah paid not the slightest attention to Mr. Black. She stooped
beneath his arm, under the rope and was on her way to the shanty before
they realized her intention. Captain Zeb roared a command for her to
return, but she kept on. No one followed, not even the captain. Mrs.
Mayo had strictly forbidden his passing the dead line.

Keziah opened the door and entered the little building. The living room
was empty, but at the sound of her step some one came from the room
adjoining. That some one was Grace.

"Aunt Keziah!" she cried. "What did you come here for? Why did you?"

"Gracie!" exclaimed the housekeeper. "You?--YOU?"

Dr. Parker appeared, holding up a hand for silence.

"Hush!" he cried. "He's quiet now and I think he will sleep. Don't talk
here. Go outside, if you must talk--and I suppose you must."

Grace led the way. Fortunately, the door was on the side not visible
from the spot where Captain Zeb and the rest were standing. Keziah,
bewildered and amazed at the girl's presence, followed dumbly.

"Now, auntie," whispered Grace, turning to her, "you want to know how
he is, of course. Well, I think he is better. The doctor thinks so, too.
But why did you come here?"

"Why did I come? I? Why, because my place was here. I belonged here.
For the love of mercy's sakes what are YOU doin' here? With HIM? And the
smallpox!"

"Hush. I can't help it. I don't care. I don't care for anything any
more. I'm glad I came. I'm glad I was the one to find him and help him.
No matter what happens--to me--I'm glad. I never was so glad before. I
love him, Aunt Keziah. I can say it to you, for you know it--you must
know it. I LOVE him and he needed me and I came. He was calling my name
when I found him. He might have died there, alone in the wet and cold,
and I saved him. Think what that means to me."

The girl was in a sort of frenzy of excitement and hysterical
exaltation. All the night she had been calm and quiet, repressing her
feelings, and tending the man she loved. Now, with some one to whom she
could confide, she was calm no longer. Keziah answered her soothingly,
questioning her from time to time, until, at last, she learned the whole
story.

The door opened softly and Dr. Parker came out.

"He's asleep," he said. "And he's better, much better. And I'll tell you
something else, if you won't make too much noise about it--he hasn't got
the smallpox."

The two women looked at him.

"Fact," he said, with an emphatic nod. "Not a symptom of it. I'd have
bet my best hat that he wasn't going to have it and I won't have to go
bareheaded yet awhile. He is pretty close to brain fever, though, but I
guess he'll dodge that this time, with care. On the whole, Keziah, I'm
glad you came. This young lady," with a movement of the head toward
Grace, "has done her part. She really saved his life, if I'm not
mistaken. Now, I think she can go away and leave him to you and me. I'll
pretty nearly guarantee to have him up and out of this--this pesthole in
a fortnight."

Here was joyful tidings, the better for being so unexpected. Keziah
leaned against the boards and drew a long breath. Grace said nothing,
but, after a moment, she went into the house.

"That's a good thing, too," commented Parker, watching her as she went.
"I wanted to talk with you, Keziah Coffin, and right away. Now, then,
there's something up, something that I don't know about, and I rather
guess you do. Young women--even when they're her kind and that's as good
a kind as there is--don't risk smallpox for any young man they pick up
casually. They don't carry--I guess it was pretty nearly carrying--him
home and put him to bed and care for him and cry over him and call him
'dear.' And he doesn't beg them to run away and let him die rather than
to stay there and risk dying, too. No, not to any great extent. Now,
Keziah, you and I are fairly good friends and we ought to know each
other by this time. I see a light--a little one. Now, then, if you turn
up the lamp, so that I can see the whole blaze, maybe I can help those
two in yonder."

Keziah considered. "All right, doctor," she said, when she reached a
decision, "all right; I'll tell you the whole thing, and you can see one
of the reasons why my hair is gettin' grayer. This thing has reached the
point now where there's no keepin' it quiet. Folk'll know--I s'pose they
know already--that she's been here with him. They'll suspect a lot more
and the truth is better than suspicion--that is, it can't be worse than
the suspicions that come natural to a good many minds in this town. I
am glad I can tell you, for I guess the time's come to step out in
broad daylight and h'ist our colors. Now, you listen. Here 'tis, from
beginnin' to end."

She went on to tell all she knew of her parson's love story.

Dr. Parker listened.

"Hum!" he said thoughtfully, "I see. What made her change her mind so
suddenly? You say, or you gather from what Mr. Ellery told you, that she
had all but agreed to marry him. She cares for him, that's sure. Then,
all at once, she throws him over and accepts Nat. Of course her uncle's
sudden seizure was a shock and he wanted Nat to have her, but she isn't
the kind of girl to be easily swayed. Why did she do it?"

"Well, doctor, that's kind of a puzzle to me. All I can think is that
she come to realize what it might mean to him, the minister, if he
married a Come-Outer. I think she done it for his sake, to save him,
though what made her realize it all at once I don't know. There's the
part we ain't heard."

"I guess you're right. Something happened between the time she left
Ellery and when you and I reached the tavern. But never mind that, that
doesn't count now. Let's look at things as they are this minute. She's
here and folks know it. As they do know it they'll begin to talk, and
the more they talk the farther from the truth they'll get--most of 'em.
Nat, poor chap, is dead, so her promise to him is canceled. Ellery will
get well if he isn't troubled, and her being with him will help more
than anything else. I can understand now why he broke down."

"Yes, he ain't been himself since it happened."

"Of course, and the last few weeks of worry and night work have helped
to wreck his nerves. Well, as I see it, there's only one thing to do. If
she leaves him he'll go to pieces again, so she mustn't leave. And she
can't stay without an explanation. I say let's give the explanation;
let's come right out with the announcement that they're engaged."

"Whew! that'll stir things up."

"You bet! But let it stir. I like that parson of yours; he's a trump.
And I always liked her, although, generally speaking, I don't love
Come-Outers. And I like her more than ever now, when she risked what she
thought was smallpox to care for him. As I said, she saved his life, and
she ought to have him. She SHALL have him."

"But she's a Come-Outer and--there's the church."

"Well, I know it. But he never was so popular as he is now. And she
isn't by any means a steady-going Come-Outer. Why, Zeke Bassett and
the rest have been finding fault with her and calling her a backslider.
That'll help. Then you trust me to whoop up her heroism and the fact
that without her he would have died. We can do it, Keziah. Come on! I've
tackled a good many jobs, but matchmaking isn't one of 'em. Here goes to
tackle that."

Keziah was delighted; here was work after her own heart. But she still
hesitated.

"Doctor," she said, "you've forgot one thing, that's Gracie herself.
Would she marry him now, knowing it may mean the loss of his ministry
and all, any more than she would at first? I don't believe it."

"That's your part, Keziah. You've got to show her she MUST marry him or
he'll die; see? Call on me to back you up in any fairy yarn you spin.
You prove to her it's her duty to marry him. You'll have to stay, here
and help nurse, of course, and that's easy because his disease isn't
contagious. You convince her and I'll take care of the congregation.
He'll live to be minister here for the rest of his life, if he wants to,
and she'll be a minister's wife and sit in the front pew. I'll guarantee
the church if you'll guarantee the girl. Why, it's your duty! Come, now,
what do you say?"

Keziah's hesitation was at an end. Her face lit up.

"I say good!" she cried. "And I'll be thankful to you all the rest of
my life. But for the dear mercy sakes, don't say 'duty' to me again. Oh,
doctor, if you only knew what it means to me to be fightin' at last for
somethin' that ain't just duty, but what I really want! I do honestly
believe we can win. Glory, hallelujah! And now I want to give you a
piece of advice, your course for the first leg, as you might say: you
see Cap'n Zebedee Mayo."

"Humph! Cap'n Zeb is the first man I mean to see."

Captain Zeb listened with his mouth and eyes and ears open. Mrs. Mayo
was with him when the doctor called, and she, too, listened.

"Well!" exclaimed the captain, when the plea for support was ended.
"Well, by the flukes of Jonah's whale! Talk about surprises! Old lady,
what do you say?"

"I say go ahead, Zebedee. Go ahead! If Mr. Ellery wanted to marry
Jezebel's sister, and I knew he really wanted to, I'd--I do believe I'd
help him get her. And Grace Van Horne is a good girl. Go ahead."

"Of course," put in Parker, profiting by a hint of Mrs. Coffin's,
"of course Daniels will fight tooth and nail against us. He'll be for
discharging Ellery at once. And he really runs the parish committee."

"He does, hey? Well, I cal'late he don't. Not if I'm on deck, he don't.
All right, doctor, I'm with you. He, he, he!" he chuckled. "Say, doc, do
you know I sort of love a good lively row. That's been the only trouble
with our society sence Mr. Ellery took command of it--there ain't been
any rows. He, he, he! Well, there'll be one now."

There was, and it was lively enough to suit even Captain Zeb. Dr.
Parker, on his calls that day, was assailed with a multitude of
questions concerning Grace's presence at the shanty. He answered them
cheerfully, dilating upon the girl's bravery, her good sense, and the
fact that she had saved Mr. Ellery's life. Then he confided, as a strict
secret, the fact that the two were engaged. Before his hearers had
recovered from the shock of this explosion, he was justifying the
engagement. Why shouldn't they marry if they wanted to? It was a free
country. The girl wasn't a Come-Outer any longer, and, besides--and this
carried weight in a good many households--what a black eye the marriage
would be for that no-account crowd at the chapel.

Captain Zebedee, having shipped with the insurgents, worked for them
from sunrise to sunset and after. Zeb was something of a politician and
knew whom to "get at." He sought his fellows on the parish committee and
labored with them. Mrs. Mayo and the doctor's wife championed the cause
at sewing circle. They were lively, those sewing meetings, and the fur
flew. Didama Rogers and Lavinia Pepper were everywhere and ready to
agree with whichever side seemed likely to win. Lavinia was so deeply
interested that she forgot to catechise Abishai further about his
untimely reference to Peters's grove. And Kyan, puzzled but thankful,
kept silence.

It was by no means a one-sided struggle. Captain Elkanah, spurred on by
the furious Annabel, marshaled his forces and proclaimed that Ellery,
having disgraced the Regular Society, should no longer occupy its
pulpit.

"If he does," thundered Elkanah, "I shall never cross the threshold of
that church. And I've worshiped there for fifty years. Hum--ha! I should
like to know whose money has gone more liberal for that meeting house
than mine! But not another cent--no, sir! not one--if that licentious
young scamp continues to blaspheme there."

He hinted concerning a good-sized contribution toward a parish house,
something the society needed. If Ellery was discharged, the contribution
would probably be made, not otherwise. And this was a point worth
considering.

Daniels also wrote to his influential friends of the National Regular
Society. But Captain Zebedee had forestalled him there and both letters
were laid on the table to await further developments. As for the
Come-Outers, they were wild with rage and Grace was formally read out of
their communion.

"I wonder," shrieked Ezekiel Bassett, in prayer meeting, "what the
sperrit of the good and great man who used to lead us from this 'ere
platform would say if he was here now? Hey? what would he say?"

Josiah Badger upreared his lanky person. "I dreamed about Cap'n
Eben t'other n-nin-nun-night," he stammered. "I see him just
as--p-pup-pup-plain as you hear me n-n-now. And he says to me, he says,
Josiah,' he says, 'I-I-I-I--'"

"Ki yi!" broke in Thoph Baker, from the shadow of the rear seat. Josiah
turned to berate Thoph, who, being in disgrace because of his defense of
Ellery, was reckless, and the communication from the dead leader of the
Come-Outers was lost in the squabble which followed.

Meantime Keziah, installed as head nurse at the shanty, was having her
troubles. The minister was getting better, slowly but surely getting
better. The danger of brain fever was at an end, but he was very weak
and must not be excited, so the doctor said. He knew nothing of the
struggle for and against him which was splitting Trumet in twain, and
care was taken that he should not know it. He was not allowed to talk,
and, for the most part, was quite contented to be silent, watching Grace
as she moved about the room. If he wondered why she was still with him,
he said nothing, and the thought of what his congregation might say did
not vex him in the least. She was there, he saw her every day, that was
enough.

He had expressed a wish to talk with his housekeeper. "I've got
something to tell you, Aunt Keziah," he said weakly. "Some news for you
and--and--"

"Cat's foot!" snapped Keziah briskly, "don't start in tellin' me news
now. I've got my hands full as 'tis. News'll keep and you won't, if you
talk another minute."

"But this is important."

"So are you, though you may not think so. If you don't believe it ask
Grace."

"Well," the minister sighed. "Well, perhaps I won't tell it now. I'd
rather wait until I feel stronger. You won t care, will you? It will be
hard to tell and I--"

"No, no! Care? No. If it's bad news I don't want to hear it, and if it's
good I can wait, I cal'late. You turn over and take a nap."

She could manage him; it was with Grace that she had her struggle. John
was safe now; he would be himself again before very long, and the girl
had begun to think of his future and his reputation. She knew that
gossip must be busy in the village, and, much as she wished to remain by
his side, she decided that she should not do so. And then Keziah began
to fulfill her agreement with Dr. Parker.

First, and bluntly, she told the girl that her leaving now was useless.
The secret was out; it had been made public. Everyone knew she was
in love with John and he with her. Their engagement was considered an
established certainty. Grace was greatly agitated and very indignant.

"Who dared say so?" she demanded. "Who dared say we were engaged? It's
not true. It's a wicked lie and--Who is responsible, Aunt Keziah?"

"Well, I suppose likely I am, much as anybody, deary."

"You? You, Aunt Keziah?"

"Yup; me. You are in love with him; at any rate, you said so. And you're
here with him, ain't you? If you two ain't engaged you ought to be."

"Aunt Keziah, how can you speak so? Don't you realize--"

"Look here. Don't you want to marry him?"

"WANT to? Oh, please--How can you? I--"

"S-s-sh! There! there! I am a bull-headed old thing, for sure. But I'm
like the dog that chased the rat across the shelf where they kept the
best china, my intentions are good. Don't cry, deary. Let's get to the
bottom of this thing, as the man said when he tumbled into the well.
When I first knew that you and John were in love with each other, I felt
dreadful. I knew your uncle and I knew Trumet. If you had married then,
or let people know that you thought of it, 'twould have been the end,
and ruin for John and you. But things are diff'rent now, a good deal
diff'rent. John is worshiped pretty nigh, since his pluck with that
smallpox man. He could go into church and dance a jig in the pulpit and
nobody--or precious few, at least--would find fault. And you've stood
by him. If it wa'n't for you he wouldn't be here to-day, and people know
that. Dr. Parker and Captain Zebedee and Gaius Winslow and dozens more
are fighting for him and for you. And the doctor says they are going to
win. Do you want to spoil it all?"

"Aunt Keziah, that night before uncle died I was upstairs in my room and
I heard uncle and Captain Elkanah Daniels talking."

"Elkanah? Was he there at your house?"

"Yes. Somehow or other--I don't know how--he had learned about--about
John and me. And he was furious. Aunt Keziah, I heard him say that
unless I broke off with John he would drive him from the ministry and
from Trumet and disgrace him forever. He said that if I really cared for
him I would not ruin his life. That brought me to myself. I realized how
wicked I had been and what I was doing. That was why I--I--"

"There! there! Tut! tut! tut! hum! Now I see. But, Gracie, you ain't
goin' to ruin his life. No, nor Elkanah ain't goin' to do it, either.
He can't, no matter how hard he tries. I've lived to see the day when
there's a bigger man in the Reg'lar church than Elkanah Daniels, and I
thank the good Lord for it."

"I never should have come here. I know it. But he needed me. Aunt
Keziah, he was sick and dying almost, and I couldn't leave him. I came,
and now he will be ruined and disgraced."

"He won't, I tell you; he won't. Listen to me. I ain't talkin' for my
health. Listen!"

She argued and pleaded and coaxed, and, at last, when she began to think
she had prevailed, Grace brought forward another objection. She had
given her word to her uncle. How could she break that promise made to a
dying man? She would feel like a traitor.

"Traitor to who?" demanded the housekeeper, losing patience. "Not
to poor Nat, for he's gone. And don't you suppose that he and Eben
understand things better now, where they are? Do you suppose that Nat
wouldn't want you to be happy? I know he would, for I knew him."

It was still unsettled when the long talk was over, but Grace agreed not
to leave the minister at present. She would stay where she was until he
was himself again, at least. Keziah was satisfied with the preliminary
skirmish. She felt confident of winning the victory, and in the prospect
of happiness for others, she was almost happy herself. Yet each time the
mail was brought to the shanty she dreaded to look at it, and the sight
of a stranger made her shake with fear. Ansel Coffin had threatened to
come to Trumet. If he came, she had made up her mind what to do.

The parish committee was to meet. Captain Elkanah had announced his
intention of moving that John Ellery be expelled from the Regular
church. There was to be no compromise, no asking for a resignation; he
must be discharged, thrown out in disgrace. The county papers were full
of the squabble, but they merely reported the news and did not take
sides. The fight was too even for that.

Captain Zeb chuckled. "It's all right, Keziah," he said. "We know what's
what and who's who. The Rev. Mr. Ellery can preach here for the next
hundred year, if he lives that long and wants to, and he can marry
whoever he darn pleases, besides. Elkanah's licked and he knows it. He
ain't got enough backers to man a lobster dory. Let him holler; noise
don't scare grown folks."

One afternoon a few days before the date set for the meeting Elkanah
and two or three of his henchmen were on the piazza of the Daniels home,
discussing the situation. They were blue and downcast. Annabel was in
the sitting room, shedding tears of humiliation and jealous rage on the
haircloth sofa.

"Well," observed her father, "there's one thing we can do. If the
vote in committee goes against us, I shall insist on the calling of a
congregational meeting. Hum--ha! Yes, I shall insist on that."

"Won't be no good, cap'n," sniffed Beriah Salters dolefully. "The
biggest part of the congregation's for Ellery, and you know it. They're
as sot on him as if he was the angel Gabriel. If you'd only told what
you knew afore this smallpox business, we'd have been able to give him
and his Come-Outer woman what b'longs to 'em. But not now."

Captain Daniels shifted uneasily in his chair.

"Hum--ha!" he barked, to cover confusion. "Hum--ha! It seemed to me
more--er--charitable to give the misguided young man another chance, and
I did it. But--What's that?"

Some one was talking excitedly on the sidewalk beyond the lilac bushes
at the border of the Daniels property. Voices answered. Didama Rogers
darted out of her yard and past the house in the direction of the
sounds. Salters rose and walked down to the gate.

"Hey!" he shouted. "Halloo! Ahoy there! You, Em'lous, what is it?"

Emulous Sparrow, the fish peddler, was seated in his cart, which was
surrounded by men and women, neighbors of the Danielses. There was a
perfect storm of questionings and ejaculations. Salters opened the gate
and joined the group. A moment later he came running back, up the walk
toward the piazza.

"Cap'n," he shouted. "Cap'n Elkanah, here's news! What do you think? A
telegram's just come from Nat Hammond. He's safe and sound in New York,
and he'll be here day after to-morrow."

They could not believe it and rushed out to hear more. Emulous, glowing
with importance, affirmed that it was so. He had seen the telegram at
the store. It was for Grace Van Horne and they were just going to send a
boy over to the shanty with it.

"No details nor nothin'," he declared. "Just said 'Am all right.
Arrived to-day. Will be in Trumet Thursday.' And 'twas signed 'Nathaniel
Hammond.' There!"

"Well, by thunder!" exclaimed Salters. "If that don't beat all. I
wonder what's happened to him? Two year gone and give up for dead, and
now--What do you cal'late it means?"

Captain Elkanah seized him by the arm and led him out of the group.
The old man's face was alight with savage joy and his voice shook with
exultation.

"I'll tell you one thing it means," he whispered. "It means the end of
Ellery, so far as his marrying her is concerned. She gave her word to
Hammond and she'll keep it. She's no liar, whatever else she is. He may
be minister of the Regular church, though I'LL never set under him, but
he'll never marry her, now."


CHAPTER XIX

IN WHICH A RECEPTION IS CALLED OFF


Far out on the Pacific coast there are two small islands, perhaps
a hundred miles distant from one another. The first of these is
uninhabited. On the other is a little colony of English-speaking people,
half-breed descendants of native women and the survivors of a crew from
a British vessel cast away there in the latter part of the eighteenth
century.

On the first of these islands, the smaller one, the Sea Mist had been
wrecked. Driven out of her course by a typhoon, she staggered through
day after day and night after night of terrific wind and storm until,
at last, there was promise of fair weather. Captain Nat, nearly worn out
from anxiety, care, and the loss of sleep, had gone to his stateroom
and the first mate was in charge. It was three o'clock, the wind still
blowing and the darkness pitchy, when the forward lookout shrieked a
warning, "Breakers under the lee!" Almost the next instant the ship was
on a coral reef, full of water, and the seas breaking over her from stem
to stern.

Morning came and showed a little patch of land, with palm trees and
tropical vegetation waving in the gusts and green in the sunshine.
Captain Nat ordered the boats to be lowered. Much as he hated the
thought, he saw that the Sea Mist had made her last voyage and must
be abandoned. He went to the cabin, collected papers and charts and
prepared to leave. The ship's money, over ten thousand dollars in gold
belonging to the owner and to be used in trade and speculation among the
East Indies, he took with him. Then the difficult and dangerous passage
through the opening in the reef was begun.

Only the captain's boat reached the shore. The mate's was caught by a
huge breaker, dashed against the reef and sunk. Captain Nat, his second
mate and five of his men were all that was left of the Sea Mist's
company. And on that island they remained for nearly two weeks.
Provisions they had brought ashore with them. Water they found by
digging. Nat hid the gold at night, burying it on the beach below
high-water mark.

Then, having made sure of his location by consulting the chart, he
determined to attempt a voyage to the second island, where he knew
the English colony to be. Provisions were getting short, and to remain
longer where they were was to risk starvation and all its horrors. So,
in the longboat, which was provided with a sail, they started. Charts
and papers and the gold the skipper took with them. None of the crew
knew of the existence of the money; it was a secret which the captain
kept to himself.

A hundred miles they sailed in the longboat and, at last, the second
island was sighted. They landed and found, to their consternation and
surprise, that it, too, was uninhabited. The former residents had grown
tired of their isolation and, a trading vessel having touched there, had
seized the opportunity to depart for Tahiti. Their houses were empty,
their cattle, sheep, goats, and fowl roamed wild in the woods, and the
fruit was rotting on the trees. In its way the little island was
an Eyeless Eden, flowing with milk and honey; but to Captain Nat, a
conscientious skipper with responsibilities to his owners, it was a
prison from which he determined to escape. Then, as if to make escape
impossible, a sudden gale came up and the longboat was smashed by the
surf.

"I guess that settles it," ruefully observed the second mate, "another
Cape Codder, from Hyannis. Cal'late we'll stay here for a spell now,
hey, Cap'n."

"For a spell, yes," replied Nat. "We'll stay here until we get another
craft to set sail in, and no longer."

"Another craft? ANOTHER one? Where in time you goin' to get her?"

"Build her," said Captain Nat cheerfully. Then, pointing to the row of
empty houses and the little deserted church, he added, "There's timber
and nails--yes, and cloth, such as 'tis. If I can't build a boat out of
them I'll agree to eat the whole settlement."

He did not have to eat it, for the boat was built. It took them six
months to build her, and she was a curious-looking vessel when done,
but, as the skipper said, "She may not be a clipper, but she'll sail
anywhere, if you give her time enough." He had been the guiding
spirit of the whole enterprise, planning it, laying the keel, burning
buildings, to obtain nails and iron, hewing trees for the largest beams,
showing them how to spin ropes from cocoa-nut fiber, improvising sails
from the longboat's canvas pieced out with blankets and odd bits of
cloth from the abandoned houses. Even a strip of carpet from the church
floor went into the making of those sails.

At last she was done, but Nat was not satisfied.

"I never commanded a ship where I couldn't h'ist Yankee colors," he
said, "and, by the everlastin'! I won't now. We've got to have a flag."

So, from an old pair of blue overalls, a white cotton shirt, and the
red hangings of the church pulpit, he made a flag and hoisted it to the
truck of his queer command. They provisioned her, gave her a liberal
supply of fresh water, and, one morning, she passed through the opening
of the lagoon out to the deep blue of the Pacific. And, hidden in her
captain's stateroom under the head of his bunk, was the ten thousand
dollars in gold. For Nat had sworn to himself, by "the everlasting"
and other oaths, to deliver that money to his New York owners safe and,
necessary expenses deducted of course, untouched.

For seven weeks the crazy nondescript slopped across the ocean. Fair
winds helped her and, at last, she entered the harbor of Nukahiva, over
twelve hundred miles away. And there--"Hammond's luck," the sailors
called it--was a United States man-of-war lying at anchor, the first
American vessel to touch at that little French settlement for five
years. The boat they built was abandoned and the survivors of the Sea
Mist were taken on board the man-of-war and carried to Tahiti.

From Tahiti Captain Nat took passage on a French bark for Honolulu.
Here, after a month's wait, he found opportunity to leave for New York
on an American ship, the Stars and Stripes. And finally, after being
away from home for two years, he walked into the office of his New York
owners, deposited their gold on a table, and cheerfully observed, "Well,
here I am."

That was the yarn which Trumet was to hear later on. It filled columns
of the city papers at the time, and those interested may read it, in all
its details, in a book written by an eminent author. The tale of a Cape
Cod sea captain, plucky and resourceful and adequate, as Yankee sea
captains were expected to be, and were, in those days.

But Trumet did not hear the yarn immediately. All that it heard and all
that it knew was contained in Captain Nat's brief telegram. "Arrived
to-day. Will be home Thursday." That was all, but it was enough, for
in that dispatch was explosive sufficient to blow to atoms the doctor's
plans and Keziah's, the great scheme which was to bring happiness to
John Ellery and Grace Van Horne.

Dr. Parker heard it, while on his way to Mrs. Prince's, and, neglecting
that old lady for the once, he turned his horse and drove as fast as
possible to the shanty on the beach. Fast as he drove, Captain Zebedee
Mayo got there ahead of him. Captain Zeb was hitching his white and
ancient steed to the post as the doctor hove in sight.

"By mighty!" the captain exclaimed, with a sigh of relief, "I'm glad
enough you've come, doctor. I hated to go in there alone. You've heard,
of course."

"Yes, I've heard."

"Say, ain't it wonderful! I'm tickled all up one side and sorry all down
t'other. Nat's a true-blue feller, and I'm glad enough that he ain't
shark bait; but what about the minister and her? She's promised to Nat,
you know, and--"

"I know. Don't I know! I've been going over the affair and trying to see
a way out ever since I heard of the telegram. Tut! tut! I'm like you,
mighty glad Hammond is safe, but it would have spared complications if
he had stayed wherever he's been for a few months longer. We would have
married those two in there by that time."

"Sartin we would. But he didn't stay. Are you goin' to tell Mr. Ellery?"

"Certainly not. And I hope he hasn't been told. He's getting well fast
now, but he mustn't be worried, or back he'll go again. We must see Mrs.
Coffin. Keziah is our main hold. That woman has got more sense than all
the rest of us put together."

But it was Grace, not Keziah, who opened the shanty door in answer to
their knock. She was pale and greeted them calmly, but it was evident
that her calmness was the result of sheer will power.

"Won't you come in, doctor?" she asked. "Good afternoon, Captain Mayo."

Dr. Parker entered the building, but Captain Zeb remained outside,
stammering that he cal'lated he'd better stay where he could keep an eye
on his horse. This was such a transparent excuse that it would have been
funny at any other time. No one smiled now, however.

"Is--is Mrs. Coffin--er--Keziah aboard?" the captain asked.

"No, she isn't. She went to the parsonage a few hours ago. Mr. Ellis
brought the mail and there was a letter in it for her. She said it was
important and that she must go home to see about some things. She'll be
back pretty soon, I suppose."

The doctor whispered her name then and she went inside, closing the door
after her. Captain Zebedee sat down on the step to ponder over the new
and apparently insurmountable difficulty which had arisen. As he said
afterwards, "The more I tried to get an observation, the thicker it got.
Blamed if I could see anything but fog, but I could hear--I could hear
Elkanah and his gang gigglin', ahead, astern and off both bows."

Parker found his patient sleeping soundly and had not disturbed him.
Returning to the living room he spoke to Grace.

"Humph!" he grunted, watching her from under his brows, "everything
seems to be all right in there. He hasn't been excited or anything like
that?"

"No."

"That's good. He mustn't be. You understand that? He mustn't be told
anything that will upset him. He's getting well fast and I want it to
continue."

"Yes, I understand."

"Hum! Er--have you heard--Has anyone been here?"

"Yes. I have heard. The telegram came and I answered it."

"You did? Well, it's a miracle and we're all thankful, of course. Did
you--er--er--"

"Doctor, I must go home. I mustn't stay here any longer."

"Why not?"

"You know why not. I must be at home when he comes. You must get some
one to take my place. Aunt Keziah will stay, of course, and perhaps Mrs.
Higgins would come, or Hannah Poundberry. She--"

"Not if I know it. I'd as soon have a hay-cutter running in here as
Hannah's tongue. I could stop a hay-cutter when it got too noisy. Well,
if you must go, you must, I suppose. But stay through tomorrow, at
any rate. Nat won't get here until Thursday, and I may be able to find
another nurse by that time. And what I shall say to him," motioning
toward the other room, "I don't know."

"Must you say anything? Just say that I have been called away for a few
days on--on some business. Don't tell him. Don't tell him the truth,
doctor, now. He is too weak and I am afraid--"

She stopped and turned away. The doctor watched her pityingly.

"Cheer up," he said. "At any rate, this is only for a little while. When
the captain knows, if he's the man I take him for, he'll--"

She whirled like a flash. "You're not going to tell him?" she cried.
"No, no! You mustn't. You must promise me you won't. Promise."

"Somebody'll tell him. Telling things is Trumet's specialty."

"Then you must stop it. No one must tell him--no one except me. I shall
tell him, of course. He must hear it from me and not from anyone else.
He would think I was disloyal and ungrateful--and I am! I have been! But
I was--I COULDN'T help it. You know, doctor, you know--"

"Yes, yes, I know. Well, I'll promise, but it will all come out right,
you see. You mustn't think I--we--have been interfering in your affairs,
Grace. But we've all come to think a whole lot of that parson of ours
and what he wanted we wanted him to have, that's all."

"I know. Thank you very much for all your kindness, and for your
promise."

He would have liked to say much more, but he could not, under the
circumstances. He stammered a good-by and, with a question concerning
Mrs. Coffin's whereabouts, went out to join Captain Zeb.

"Well?" queried the latter anxiously. "How is it? What's up? What's the
next tack?"

"We'll go to the parsonage," was the gloomy answer. "If anybody can see
a glimmer in this cussed muddle Keziah Coffin can."

Keziah was on her knees in her room, beside a trunk, the same trunk she
had been packing the day of the minister's arrival in Trumet. She was
working frantically, sorting garments from a pile, rejecting some and
keeping others. She heard voices on the walk below and went down to
admit the callers.

"What's the matter, Keziah?" asked Dr. Parker sharply, after a look at
her face. "You look as if you'd been through the war. Humph! I suppose
you've heard the news?"

Keziah brushed back the hair from her forehead. "Yes," she answered
slowly. "I've heard it."

"Well, it's great news, and if it wasn't for--if things weren't as they
are, I'd be crowing hallelujahs this minute. Trumet has got a good man
safe and sound again, and the Lord knows it needs all of that kind it
can get."

"Yes."

"Yes. But there's the other matter. I've been to see Grace. She didn't
say so, but it was easy enough to see; the man she promised to marry and
thought was dead, is alive. She's a girl of her word--she promised him
and she promised her dying uncle--and she'll marry him. And then what
will become of John Ellery? He'll go downhill so fast that a ship's
anchor wouldn't hold him. If he doesn't die I'll have to send him away
somewhere, and the Regular church will lose the minister we've fought so
hard for."

"Yes," concurred Zebedee, "and them blasted Danielses'll run the shebang
and the rest of us'll have to sing small, I tell you."

"So we've come to you, Keziah," went on the doctor. "Do you see any
salvation?"

"Yes, I do."

"You do? Where?"

"In Nat Hammond. If he knows Grace doesn't want to marry him, do you
suppose he'll hold her to her promise?"

"I don't know. I'm not so sure. Men don't give up girls like that so
easy. I wouldn't--by George, I wouldn't! And she won't tell him the
whole truth, I'm afraid. She'll pretend to be glad--hang it! she IS
glad--to have him home again and--"

"Of course she's glad. Ain't we all glad and happy and thankful? We
ought to be. But"--she hesitated--"doctor, you leave this to me. So
far as John and Grace are concerned you needn't worry. I'll take it on
myself to see that they have each other, as the Almighty meant 'em to.
Leave it to me. Just leave it to me. I KNOW I can do it."

She would not say more, nor tell on what grounds she based her optimism.
She would go back to the shanty that evening, she said, and stay until
the following afternoon. Grace would undoubtedly go to the old tavern to
prepare for the homecoming. Let Mrs. Higgins take her place as nurse.

"I shall have to leave, myself," she added, "for a little while; so
perhaps you'd better try to get somebody else to help the Higgins woman.
Don't ask me any questions, please don't, and be sure not to say a word
to anybody--most of all to Grace. Just do as I tell you and leave it to
me. And don't come and see me again until after--after he comes home.
Good-by, doctor. Good-by, Cap'n Zeb."

She shook hands with each of them, a rather unusual proceeding as they
thought of it afterwards. Then they went away and left her.

"Humph!" mused Parker, as they came out at the gate. "Humph! She seems
sure, doesn't she. And yet she doesn't act like herself. Did you notice
that?"

"Yup. I noticed it. But I expect Nat's droppin' out of the clouds shook
her up, same as it done the rest of us. Well, never mind. She's a bully
good, capable woman and what she says she'll do she gen'rally does. I'm
bettin' on her. By time! I feel better."

Captain Elkanah Daniels and his friends were feeling better also, and
they were busy. Trumet had a new hero now. On Wednesday the Boston
papers printed excerpts from Captain Hammond's story, and these brief
preliminary accounts aroused the admiration of every citizen. It was
proposed to give him a reception. Elkanah was the moving spirit in the
preparations. Captain Nat, so they learned by telegraphing, would arrive
on the noon train Thursday. His was not to be a prosaic progress by
stage all the way from Sandwich. A special carriage, drawn by the
Daniels span and escorted by other vehicles, was to meet the coach at
Bayport and bring him to Trumet in triumphant procession. All this was
to be a surprise, of course.

Wednesday afternoon the Daniels following was cheered by the tidings
that Grace Van Horne had left the beach and was at her old home, the
Hammond tavern. And Mrs. Poundberry reported her busy as a bee "gettin'
things ready." This was encouraging and indicated that the minister
had been thrown over, as he deserved to be, and that Nat would find his
fiancee waiting and ready to fulfill her contract. "Reg'lar whirligig,
that girl," sniffed Didama Rogers. "If she can't have one man she'll
take the next, and then switch back soon's the wind changes. However,
most likely she never was engaged to Mr. Ellery, anyhow. He's been out
of his head and might have said some fool things that let Dr. Parker and
the rest b'lieve he was in love with her. As for pickin' of him up and
totin' him back to the shanty that night, that wa'n't nothin' but common
humanity. She couldn't let him die in the middle of the lighthouse lane,
could she?"

Thursday was a perfect day, and the reception committee was on hand and
waiting in front of the Bayport post office. The special carriage, the
span brushed and curried until their coats glistened in the sunshine,
was drawn up beside the platform. The horses had little flags fastened
to their bridles, and there were other and larger flags on each side
of the dashboard. Captain Daniels, imposing in his Sunday raiment,
high-collared coat, stock, silk hat and gold-headed cane, sat stiffly
erect on the seat in the rear. The other carriages were alongside, among
them Captain Zebedee Mayo's ancient chaise, the white horse sound asleep
between the shafts. Captain Zeb had not been invited to join the escort,
but had joined it without an invitation.

"I guess likely I'd better be on hand," the captain confided to Dr.
Parker. "Maybe I can stop Elkanah from talkin' too much about--well,
about what we don't want him to talk about, and besides, I'm just as
anxious to give Nat a welcome home as the next feller. He's a brick and
we're all proud of him. By mighty! I'd like to have seen that craft he
built out of cocoanuts and churches--I would so."

Kyan Pepper was there also, not yet fully recovered from the surprise
which Lavinia's gracious permission had given him. Abishai had been
leaning disconsolately over his front gate early that morning when Noah
Ellis, the lightkeeper, jogged down the lane.

"'Mornin', 'Bish," hailed Noah, pulling up his horse. "What's the
matter? You look bluer'n a spiled mack'rel. What's the row? Breakfast
disagree with you?"

"Naw," replied Kyan shortly. "Where you bound, all rigged up in your
shore duds?"

"Bound to Bayport, to see Nat Hammond land," was the cheerful answer.
"I ain't had a day off I don't know when, and I thought I'd take one. Be
great doin's over there, they tell me. Elkanah's goin' to make a speech
and there's eighteen teams of folks goin'."

"I know it. I wisht I was goin', too, but I never have no fun. Have
to stay to home and work and slave over them consarned tax papers.
Sometimes I wish there wa'n't no taxes."

"Humph! I've wished that, myself, more'n once. Why don't you go, if you
want to? Climb right aboard here with me. Plenty of room."

"Hey? You mean that? By godfreys mighty! I'd like to."

"Sartin, I mean it. Come ahead."

Mr. Pepper sadly shook his head. "I guess likely I'd better not," he
sighed. "Laviny might not like to have me leave her."

"Oh, fiddlesticks! she won't mind. I'll take care of you. It's perfectly
safe. There ain't goin' to be no women around. Haw! haw! haw!"

He was still laughing at his own joke when through the slats of the
closed blinds shading the Pepper house parlor a shrill voice was heard
speaking.

"Go ahead, 'Bishy dear," called Lavinia. "Go ahead and go. A change of
air'll do you good."

Kyan whirled and clutched at the gate.

"HEY?" he shouted in amazement.

"Are you deef? Or is Mr. Ellis laughin' so hard that you can't hear?
What is it that's so funny, Mr. Ellis?"

The light-keeper shut off his laughter by a sudden and rather frightened
gulp.

"Oh, nothin', nothin', Miss Pepper. Nice day, ain't it?"

"I guess so. I ain't had time to look at it yet. I have to work. I can't
let my wife do it for me, like some folks, and take 'days off.' What was
it you was laughin' at, Mr. Ellis?"

"Nothin', nothin' at all."

"Hum! They used to tell me there was only one kind of person who laughed
at nothin'. Well, 'Bish Pepper, what are you standin' there for? If
you're goin', come right into the house and change your clothes this
minute."

Kyan obeyed. Shortly he reappeared, clothed like a lily of the field,
one that had long since gone to seed. He clambered up beside Noah and
they drove off.

"Jerushy!" exclaimed the lightkeeper. "This is kind of unexpected, ain't
it? What's got into her to make her so accommodatin'?"

"Godfreys mighty!" was the dazed reply, "I don't know. This as fast as
you can drive? Hurry up, afore she changes her mind."

So it happened that Mr. Pepper was in Bayport with the rest, awaiting
the stage which was bringing Trumet's latest celebrity from Sandwich.

"Here she comes!" shouted Ezra Simmons, the postmaster. "Right on time,
too."

Sure enough! A cloud of dust in the distance, rising on the spring
wind, and the rattle of rapidly turning wheels. The reception committee
prepared for action. Captain Elkanah descended from the carriage and
moved in stately dignity to the front of the post-office platform.

"Hum--ha!" he barked, turning to his followers. "Be ready now. Give him
a good cheer, when I say the word. Let it be hearty--hearty, yes."

The stage, its four horses at a trot, swung up to the platform.

"Whoa!" roared the driver.

"Now!" ordered Elkanah. "One--two--Hurrah!"

"Hurrah!" shouted the committee, its uninvited guests and the
accompanying crowd of Bayport men and boys which had gathered to assist
in the welcome. "Hurrah!"

"Hooray!" yelled Kyan, a little behind, as usual.

A passenger or two peered from the coach window. The stage driver
ironically touched his cap.

"Thank ye," he said. "Thank ye very much. I've been hopin' for this
for a long time, though I'd about given up expectin' it. I'm very much
obliged. Won't somebody please ask me to make a speech?"

Captain Elkanah frowned his disapproval.

"We are cheering Cap'n Nathaniel Hammond of Trumet," he explained
haughtily. "We are here to meet him and escort him home."

The driver sighed. "You don't say," he said. "And I thought my merits
had been recognized at last. And 'twas all for Cap'n Hammond? Dear!
dear!"

He winked at Simmons, who wanted to laugh, but did not dare.

"Come! come!" said Captain Elkanah. "Where is he? Where's Cap'n
Hammond?"

"Well, now, I'll tell ye; I don't know where he is."

"You DON'T? Isn't he with you?"

"No, he ain't. And he didn't come on the train, nuther. He WAS on it.
The conductor told me he see him and set along with him between stations
as fur as Cohasset Narrows. But after that he never see hide nor hair of
him. Oh, that's so! Here's the mail bag, Ezry."

Captain Elkanah looked at the reception committee and it looked at him.
Here was a most disconcerting setback for all the plans. The committee,
after asking more, and fruitless questions, went into executive session.

Captain Zeb stepped beside the stage and put one foot on the wheel.

"Say, Thad," he whispered, "is that all you know? Where did he go to?"

"Can't tell you, cap'n. The conductor says he see him afore they got to
Cohasset Narrows and not after. Naturally, we s'pose he got off there.
Pretty good joke on old Daniels, I call it. Serve him right, figgerin'
to take a passenger away from me. He, he!"

"But you do know more, now don't you? Tell a feller--come! I don't like
Elkanah any better'n you do."

"Well," the driver's voice dropped still lower. "Well," he whispered,
"I did hear this much, though don't you tell none of them: A chap I know
was on the train and he said he see Cap'n Nat get off the cars at the
Cohasset Narrows depot and there was a woman with him."

"A woman? A WOMAN? What woman?"

"Blessed if I know! And he didn't nuther. So long! Git dap!"

The reception committee and its escort drove slowly back to Trumet. The
Daniels following was disgusted and disappointed. Captain Elkanah had
figured upon keeping Hammond under his own wing until he was safely
deposited at the old tavern. Grace was there and Elkanah meant that
these two should meet before any inkling of Ellery's story reached Nat's
ears. Incidentally, he could drop a few damaging hints concerning the
minister's character. To hurt Ellery all he could and prejudice Hammond
against him--that was the plan, and now it was frustrated. The captain
had not put in an appearance and no one knew where he was or when he
would come home. Obviously, there was nothing to do except give up the
reception and await further news from the missing man.

Some of those present wished to remain in Bayport until night. Another
train was due in Sandwich and, possibly, Nat might come on that. They
could telegraph and find out whether or not he did come, and if he did,
could send a carriage for him. But this suggestion was overruled. The
reception was off.

The homeward journey had some unpleasant incidents. Several Come-Outers
had driven over. Nat belonged to them, so they felt--he was the son of
their dead founder and leader--and they determined the Regulars should
not have him all to themselves. They had come to bid him welcome on
behalf of the worshipers at the chapel. Now they took advantage of the
general disappointment to make sarcastic and would-be-humorous remarks
loud enough for the majestic occupant of the decorated carriage to hear.

"Seems to me," said Thoph Black, "that them flags ought to be ha'f mast.
That craft's in distress."

"S-sh-h!" counciled his companion, another Come-Outer. "Don't be
irreverent. Look who's cruisin' under 'em. That's the King of Trumet.
Let's you and me go ahead and fire salutes, Thoph."

Captain Elkanah wrathfully ordered the flags to be removed from the
horses' heads and from the dashboard.

As Noah Ellis and his passenger turned into the lighthouse lane another
vehicle turned out of it.

"Who was that?" queried Kyan. "Looked like one of the livery stable
horses to me."

"'Twa'n't. 'Twas Thankful Payne's and that was her carriage, too. It's
gettin' so dark I couldn't see who was drivin' it, but 'twas a man,
anyhow."

Kyan seemed to be pondering. "I wonder," he said slowly, "I wonder if
that cousin of hers from Sandwich is here visitin'. That Caleb Pratt,
seems to me his name is."

"Don't know. Why?"

"Nothin', nothin'. I just wondered, that was all. That might explain why
she let me--"

"Hey?"

"Nothin'. Good night, Noah. I'm much obliged to you for takin' me over,
even if there wa'n't no reception."

Trumet spent that evening wondering what had become of Nat Hammond.
Captain Zeb Mayo wondered most of all. Yet his wonderment was
accompanied by vague suspicions of the truth. And, at eleven o'clock,
when the village was in bed, a horse and buggy moved down the Turn-off
and stopped before the Hammond gate. A man alighted from the buggy and
walked briskly up to the side door. There he knocked and then whistled
shrilly.

A window overhead was opened.

"Who is it?" asked a feminine voice.

"Don't be frightened, Gracie," replied the man at the door. "It's
me--Nat. I've come home again."


CHAPTER XX

IN WHICH THE MINISTER RECEIVES A LETTER


John Ellery was uneasy. Physically he was very much better, so much
better that he was permitted to sit up a while each day. But mentally he
was disturbed and excited, exactly the condition which the doctor said
he must not be in. Keziah and Grace had gone away and left him, and he
could not understand why.

Mrs. Higgins, Ike's mother, was at the shanty and she did her best to
soothe and quiet him. She was a kind soul and capable, in her way, but
she could not answer his questions satisfactorily.

"Where are they?" he demanded. "Why did they go? Has anything happened?
When are they coming back?"

"I can't tell you just when, Mr. Ellery," replied Mrs. Higgins. "Grace
had to go home for a--a day or so and Keziah had things to attend to at
the parsonage. Don't you fret yourself about them."

"I'm not fretting, but it does seem strange. I could understand why one
should go, perhaps, but not both. Didn't Gra--Miss Van Horne tell you
why she went?"

"Well, now, Mr. Ellery, don't let's worry about Gracie. She's a good
girl with lots of common sense and--"

"I know that. But that doesn't answer me. Why did she go?"

"Keziah hadn't been to the parsonage sence that day when you was fust
took sick, and I expect likely she felt that she'd ought to--"

"Please, Mrs. Higgins, tell me the truth. I'm not asking about Mrs.
Coffin. Didn't Miss Van Horne tell you her reason for leaving?"

"No, she didn't."

"But you know the reason? You're keeping something from me. Did she say
when she would come back?"

"No, not exactly, but, of course--"

"I know you're keeping something from me. What has happened?"

"Happened? Land sakes! does anything ever happen in Trumet?"

"I think a good many things have happened lately. And the longer you
keep the truth from me the more I shall suspect."

"Mr. Ellery, you set still in that chair, or, when the doctor comes,
he'll put you to bed. I've got some cookin' to do and I can't set here
gossipin' no longer. You behave yourself and stop frettin'. I'm skipper
here now--er--for a while, anyhow--and you've got to take orders from
me. There! now I cal'late you're scared, ain't you?"

He did not seem greatly frightened, nor in awe of his new skipper.
Instead, he was evidently preparing to ask more questions. Mrs. Higgins
hurriedly fled to the living room and closed the door behind her.

The minister heard her rattling pans and dishes at a great rate. The
noise made him nervous and he wished she might be more quiet. He moved
to the chair nearest the window and looked out over the dunes and the
wide stretch of tumbling blue sea. The surf was rolling up the shore,
the mackerel gulls were swooping and dipping along the strand, the beach
grass was waving in the wind. A solitary fish boat was beating out past
the spar buoy. She was almost over the spot when the San Jose had first
anchored.

The view was a familiar one. He had seen it in all weathers, during a
storm, at morning when the sun was rising, at evening when the moon
came up to tip the watery ridges with frosted silver. He had liked
it, tolerated it, hated it, and then, after she came, loved it. He had
thought it the most beautiful scene in all the world and one never to be
forgotten. The dingy old building, with its bare wooden walls, had been
first a horror, then a prison, and at last a palace of contentment. With
the two women, one a second mother to him, and the other dearest of
all on earth, he could have lived there forever. But now the old prison
feeling was coming back. He was tired of the view and of the mean little
room. He felt lonely and deserted and despairing.

His nerves were still weak and it was easy, in his childish condition,
to become despondent. He went over the whole situation and felt more and
more sure that his hopes had been false ones and that he had builded a
fool's paradise. After all, he remembered, she had given him no promise;
she had found him ill and delirious and had brought him there. She had
been kind and thoughtful and gracious, but that she would be to anyone,
it was her nature. And he had been content, weak as he was, to have her
near him, where he would see her and hear her speak. Her mere presence
was so wonderful that he had been satisfied with that and had not asked
for more. And now she had gone. Mrs. Higgins had said "for a day or
two," but that was indefinite, and she had not said she would return
when those two days had passed. He was better now, almost well. Would
she come back to him? After all, conditions in the village had not
changed. He was still pastor of the Regular church and she was a
Come-Outer. The man she had promised to marry was dead--yes. But the
other conditions were the same. And Mrs. Higgins had refused to tell
him the whole truth; he was certain of that. She had run away when he
questioned her.

He rose from the chair and started toward the living room. He would not
be put off again. He would be answered. His hand was on the latch of the
door when that door was opened. Dr. Parker came in.

The doctor was smiling broadly. His ruddy face was actually beaming. He
held out his hand, seized the minister's, and shook it.

"Good morning, Mr. Ellery," he said. "It's a glorious day. Yes, sir, a
bully day. Hey? isn't it?"

Ellery's answer was a question.

"Doctor," he said, "why have Mrs. Coffin and--and Miss Van Horne gone?
Has anything happened? I know something has, and you must tell me what.
Don't try to put me off or give me evasive answers. I want to know why
they have gone."

Parker looked at him keenly. "Humph!" he grunted. "I'll have to get
into Mrs. Higgins's wig. I told her not to let you worry, and you have
worried. You're all of a shake."

"Never mind that. I asked you a question."

"I know you did. Now, Mr. Ellery, I'm disappointed in you. I thought you
were a sensible man who would take care of his health, now that he'd got
the most of it back again. I've got news for you--good news--but I'm not
sure that I shall tell it to you."

"Good news! Dr. Parker, if you've got news for me that is good, for
Heaven's sake tell it. I've been imagining everything bad that could
possibly happen. Tell me, quick. My health can stand that."

"Ye-es, yes, I guess it can. They say joy doesn't kill, and that's one
of the few medical proverbs made by unmedical men that are true. You
come with me and sit down in that chair. Yes, you will. Sit down."

He led his patient back to the chair by the window and forced him into
it.

"There!" he said. "Now, Mr. Ellery, if you think you are a man, a
sensible man, who won't go to pieces like a ten-year-old youngster,
I'll--I'll let you sit here for a while."

"Doctor?"

"You sit still. No, I'm not going to tell you anything. You sit where
you are and maybe the news'll come to you. If you move it won't. Going
to obey orders? Good! I'll see you by and by, Mr. Ellery."

He walked out of the room. It seemed to Ellery that he sat in that chair
for ten thousand years before the door again opened. And then--

--"Grace!" he cried. "O Grace! you--you've come back."

She was blushing red, her face was radiant with quiet happiness, but her
eyes were moist. She crossed the room, bent over and kissed him on the
forehead.

"Yes, John," she said; "I've come back. Yes, dear, I've come back to--to
you."


Outside the shanty, on the side farthest from the light and its group
of buildings, the doctor and Captain Nat Hammond were talking with Mrs.
Higgins. The latter was wildly excited and bubbling with joy.

"It's splendid!" she exclaimed. "It's almost too fine to believe. Now
we'll keep our minister, won't we?"

"I don't see why not," observed the doctor, with quiet satisfaction.
"Zeb and I had the Daniels crowd licked to a shoestring and now they'll
stay licked. The parish committee is three to one for Mr. Ellery and the
congregation more than that. Keep him? You bet we'll keep him! And
I'll dance at his wedding--that is, unless he's got religious scruples
against it."

Mrs. Higgins turned to Captain Nat.

"It's kind of hard for you, Nat," she said. "But it's awful noble and
self-sacrificin' and everybody'll say so. Of course there wouldn't be
much satisfaction in havin' a wife you knew cared more for another man.
But still it's awful noble of you to give her up."

The captain looked at the doctor and laughed quietly.

"Don't let my nobility weigh on your mind, Mrs. Higgins," he said. "I'd
made up my mind to do this very thing afore ever I got back to Trumet.
That is, if Gracie was willin'. And when I found she was not only
willin' but joyful, I--well, I decided to offer up the sacrifice right
off."

"You did? You DID? Why, how you talk! I never heard of such a thing in
my born days."

"Nor I neither, not exactly. But there!" with a wink at Parker, "you see
I've been off amongst all them Kanaka women and how do you know but I've
fell in love?"

"Nat HAMMOND!"

"Oh, well, I--What is it, Grace?"

She was standing in the doorway and beckoning to him. Her cheeks were
crimson, the breeze was tossing her hair about her forehead, and she
made a picture that even the practical, unromantic doctor appreciated.

"By George, Nat!" he muttered, "you've got more courage than I have. If
'twas my job to give her up to somebody else I'd think twice, I'll bet."

The captain went to meet her.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Nat," she whispered, "will you come in? He wants to see you."

John Ellery was still seated in the chair by the window, but he no
longer looked like an invalid. There was no worry or care in his
countenance now, merely a wondrous joy and serene happiness.

He held out his hands and the captain shook them heartily.

"Mr. Ellery," he said, "as they used to say at the circus, 'Here we are
again.' And you and I have been doing all kinds of circus acrobatics
since we shook last, hey? I'm glad you're pretty nigh out of the sick
bay--and the doctor says you are."

"Captain," began Ellery. Hammond interrupted him.

"Hold on!" he said. "Belay right there. If you and I are to cruise in
the same family--and that's what I hear is likely to happen--I
cal'late we'll heave overboard the cap'ns and Misters. My name's
'Nathaniel'--'Nat' for short."

"All right. And mine is 'John.' Captain--Nat, I mean--how can I ever
thank you?"

"Thank me? What do you want to thank me for? I only handed over
somethin' that wasn't mine in the first place and belonged to you all
along. I didn't know it, that was the only trouble."

"But your promise to your father. I feel--"

"You needn't. I told dad that it was just as Grace said. She says she's
got a better man, or words to that effect. And--I don't know how you
feel about such things, John--but I b'lieve there's a broader outlook up
aloft than there is down here and that dad would want me to do just what
I have done. Don't worry about me. I'm doin' the right thing and I
know it. And don't pity me, neither. I made up my mind not to marry
Grace--unless, of course, she was set on it--months ago. I'm tickled to
death to know she's goin' to have as good a man as you are. She'll tell
you so. Grace! Hello! she's gone."

"Yes. I told her I wanted to talk with you alone, for a few minutes.
Nat, Grace tells me that Aunt Keziah was the one who--"

"She was. She met me at the Cohasset Narrows depot. I was settin' in the
car, lookin' out of the window at the sand and sniffin' the Cape air. By
the everlastin'! there ain't any air or sand like 'em anywheres else.
I feel as if I never wanted to see a palm tree again as long as I live.
I'd swap the whole of the South Pacific for one Trumet sandhill with a
huckleberry bush on it. Well, as I started to say, I was settin' there
lookin' out of the window when somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I
looked up and 'twas her.

"You could have blown me over with a fan. By the jumpin' Moses, you
could! You see, I'd been thinkin' about her--that is, I was--"

He hesitated, turned red, coughed, and went on.

"I was surprised enough to see her, I tell you. Way up there at the
Narrows! I couldn't have said a word, anyway, and she never gave me a
chance. 'Nat,' she says, 'don't talk now. Come with me, quick, afore the
train starts.'

"Still I didn't say anything, nothin' sane anyhow. 'Keziah!' I managed
to stutter. 'KEZIAH!'

"'Come!' says she. 'Hurry! I want you to get off here. I've come here on
purpose to meet you. I must talk with you; it's important. You can go
to Trumet on the next train, to-night. But now I must talk with you. I
MUST. Won't you please come, Nat?'

"Well, I went. The engine bell was beginnin' to ring and we had to move
lively, I tell you. I swung her off the step just as the car begun to
move. After the smoke had faded away around the next bend I realized
that my hat had faded away along with it. Yes, sir! I'd left it on the
seat. Ha! ha! ha!"

He laughed uproariously. Ellery laughed in sympathy.

"However, I wa'n't worryin' about hats, just then. All I wanted to do
was stand still, like a frozen image, and stare at her. You see, John,
I hadn't laid eyes on a friend, one of the real homemade kind, for more
days than I wanted to count; and here was one of 'em, one of the best,
passed out to me unexpected and ahead of time, like a surprise party
present. So I just pumped her hand up and down and stared. I didn't have
any exclusive mortgage on the starin' by no means, for the depot master
and a dozen or so loafers was lookin' at us with their mouths wide open.

"I guess she noticed it, for she says, 'Don't stay here, Nat. Come in
the waitin' room or somewheres where we can talk.'

"So into the waitin' room we went and come to anchor on the settee. Six
or eight of the loafers settled themselves handy to the door, so's they
could peek in occasionally. I remember I told one of them not to stretch
his neck that way 'cause he might never get it back into shape again and
in the gunnin' season that would be dangerous. 'Some nearsighted feller
might take you for a goose,' I says. Ho! ho!

"And then, John, we had our talk. Seems she left Trumet Wednesday
afternoon. Got the livery stable man to drive her as fur as Bayport,
hired another team there and come on to Sandwich. Stayed overnight there
and took the mornin' train which got to Cohasset Narrows just ahead of
the one I was comin' on. She'd been so afraid of bein' late, she said.
She must see me afore I got to Trumet.

"Well, she saw me and told me the whole yarn about you and Grace. She
tried to break it to me gently, so I wouldn't feel too bad. She knew it
would be a shock to me, she said. It was a shock, in a way, but as for
feelin' bad, I didn't. I think the world of Grace. I'd do anything she
wanted me to do; but most the way down on the train--yes, and long afore
that--I'd been dreadin' my comin' home on one account. I dreaded tellin'
her that, unless she was real set on it, she'd better not marry me.

"You see, John, I've thought a lot sence I've been away. Had
consider'ble time to do it in. And the more I thought the less that
promise to dad seemed right. I'd have bet my sou-wester Gracie never
cared for me in the way a girl ought to care for a chap she's goin' to
ship as pilot for the rest of her days. And, as for me--well, I--I had
my reasons for not wantin' to marry her."

He paused again, sighed, started to speak, and then sat silent, looking
out of the window. Ellery laid a hand on his knee.

"Nat," said the minister, "you saved my life once, do you remember that?
I do, if you don't."

"Saved your life? What are you talkin' about? Oh! that time on the
flats? That wasn't savin' your life, 'twas savin' your clothes from
gettin' a wettin'."

"No, it was more than that. And now I guess you've saved it again, you
and Grace between you. Yes, and Aunt Keziah. Bless her! to think of her
going way up there to meet you and help us!"

"Yes. 'Twas like her, wasn't it? She said she knew I'd hear the yarn
when I got to Trumet, but she wanted me to hear it just as it was, and
nobody but she and Grace and you knew the whole truth about it. So she
come. I'm glad she did; not that I shouldn't have done the same, whoever
told me, but--"

"Nat, I want to tell you something. Something that only one other person
knows. Grace doesn't know it yet. Neither does Aunt Keziah--the whole of
it. And if she knew I told you even a part I'm afraid she would, as she
would say, 'skin me alive.' But I owe her--and you--more than I could
repay if I lived a thousand years. So I'm going to tell and take the
consequences."

The captain looked at him. "Well!" he exclaimed. "What's comin' now?
More secrets? Blessed if this ain't gettin' more excitin' than the South
Seas. I used to think excitement in Trumet was scurcer than cream in
poorhouse coffee, but I'll have to change my mind."

"Nat, when--that morning after your father died and after you and Grace
had agreed to--to--"

"To do somethin' neither of us wanted to do? Yes, I know. Go ahead."

"That morning Aunt Keziah came home to the parsonage and broke the
news to me. She did it as only she could do such a thing, kindly and
pityingly and--"

"Of course. That's Keziah."

"Yes. Well, as you can imagine, I was almost crazy. I made a fool of
myself, I expect; refused to believe her, behaved disgracefully, and at
last, when I had to believe it, threatened to run away and leave my work
and Trumet forever, like a coward. She made me stay."

"Did, hey?"

"Yes. She showed me it was my duty to face the music. When I whimpered
about my troubles she told me her own story. Then I learned what trouble
was and what pluck was, too. She told me about her marriage and--excuse
me for speaking of what isn't my business; yet it is mine, in a way--she
told me about you."

Captain Hammond did not answer. His good natured face clouded and he
shifted in his chair.

"She told me of you, Nat, all about you--and herself. And she told me
something else, which explains why she felt she must send you away, why
she thought your marriage to Grace would be a good thing."

"I know. She told you that that darn scamp Anse Coffin was alive."

The minister started violently. He gasped in surprise.

"You knew it? You KNEW it?" he stammered.

"I know it now. Have known it for over a year. My findin' it out was one
of the special Providences that's been helpin' along this last voyage of
mine. My second mate was a Hyannis man, name of Cahoon. One day, on
that pesky island, when we was eatin' dinner together, he says to me,
'Cap'n,' he says, 'you're from Trumet, ain't you?' I owned up. 'Know
anybody named Coffin there?' says he. I owned up to that, too. 'Well,'
he says, 'I met her husband last trip I was in the Glory of the Wave.'
I stared at him. 'Met his ghost, you mean,' I says. 'He's been dead
for years, and a good thing, too. Fell overboard and, not bein' used to
water, it killed him.'

"But he wouldn't have it so. 'I used to know Anse Coffin in New
Bedford,' he says. 'Knew him well's I know you. And when we was in port
at Havre I dropped in at a gin mill down by the water front and he come
up and touched me on the arm. I thought same as you, that he was dead,
but he wa'n't. He was three sheets in the wind and a reg'lar dock rat to
look at, but 'twas him sure enough. We had a long talk. He said he was
comin' back to Trumet some day. Had a wife there, he said. I told him,
sarcastic, that she'd be glad to see him. He laughed and said maybe not,
but that she knew he was alive and sent him money when he was hard up.
Wanted me to promise not to tell any Cape folks that I'd seen him, and I
ain't till now.'

"Well, you can imagine how I felt when Cahoon spun me that yarn. First
I wouldn't b'lieve it and then I did. It explained things, just as you
say, John. I could see now why Keziah gave me my walkin' papers. I could
see how she'd been sacrificin' her life for that scum."

"Yes. She wouldn't divorce him. She said she had taken him for better or
worse, and must stand by him. I tried to show her she was wrong, but it
was no use. She did say she would never live with him again."

"I should say not. LIVE with him! By the everlastin'! if he ever comes
within reach of my hands then--there's times when good honest murder is
justifiable and righteous, and it'll be done. It'll be done, you hear
me!"

He looked as if he meant it. Ellery asked another question.

"Did you tell her--Aunt Keziah--when you met her at the Narrows?" he
asked.

"No. But I shall tell her when I see her again. She shan't spoil her
life--a woman like that! by the Lord! WHAT a woman!--for any such crazy
notion. I swore it when I heard the story and I've sworn it every day
since. That's what settled my mind about Grace. Keziah Coffin belongs
to me. She always has belonged to me, even though my own pig-headedness
lost her in the old days."

"She cares for you, Nat. I know that. She as much as told me so."

"Thank you, John. Thank you. Well, I can wait now. I can wait, for
I've got something sure to wait for. I tell you, Ellery, I ain't a
church-goin' man--not as dad was, anyway--but I truly believe that this
thing is goin' to come out right. God won't let that cussed rascal live
much longer. He won't! I know it. But if he does, if he lives a thousand
years, I'll take her from him."

He was pacing the floor now, his face set like granite. Ellery rose, his
own face beaming. Here was his chance. At last he could pay to this man
and Keziah a part of the debt he owed.

Nat stopped in his stride. "Well!" he exclaimed. "I almost forgot, after
all. Keziah sent a note to you. I've got it in my pocket. She gave it to
me when she left me at Cohasset."

"Left you? Why! didn't she come back with you on the night train?"

"No. That's funny, too, and I don't understand it yet. We was together
all the afternoon. 'I was feelin' so good at seein' her that I took her
under my wing and we cruised all over that town together. Got dinner at
the tavern and she went with me to buy myself a new hat, and all that.
At first she didn't seem to want to, but then, after I'd coaxed a while,
she did. She was lookin' pretty sad and worn out, when I first met her,
I thought; but she seemed to get over it and we had a fine time. It
reminded me of the days when I used to get home from a voyage and we
were together. Then, when 'twas time for the night train we went down to
the depot. She gave me this note and told me to hand it to you to-day.

"'Good-by, Nat,' she says. 'We've had a nice day, haven't we?'

"'We have, for a fact,' I says. 'But what are you sayin' good-by for?'

"'Because I'm not goin' to Trumet with you,' says she. 'I'm goin' to the
city. I've got some business to see to there. Good-by.'

"I was set back, with all my canvas flappin'. I told her I'd go to
Boston with her and we'd come home to Trumet together to-morrow,
that's to-day. But she said no. I must come here and ease your mind and
Grace's. I must do it. So at last I agreed to, sayin' I'd see her in a
little while. She went on the up train and I took the down one. Hired
a team in Sandwich and another in Bayport and got to the tavern about
eleven. That's the yarn. And here's your note. Maybe it tells where
she's gone and why."

The minister took the note and tore open the envelope. Within was a
single sheet of paper. He read a few lines, stopped, and uttered an
exclamation.

"What's the matter?" asked the captain.

Ellery did not answer. He read the note through and then, without a
word, handed it to his friend.

The note was as follows:


"DEAR JOHN:

"I am going away, as I told you I would if he came. He is coming.
Tuesday I got a letter from him. It was written at Kingston, Jamaica,
almost three months ago. I can't think why I haven't got it sooner, but
suppose it was given to some one to mail and forgotten. In it he said
he was tired of going to sea and was coming home to me. I had money,
he said, and we could get along. He had shipped aboard a brig bound
for Savannah, and from there he was going to try for a berth on a
Boston-bound vessel. So I am going away and not coming back. I could not
stand the disgrace and I could not see him. You and Grace won't need me
any more now. Don't worry about me. I can always earn a living while I
have my strength. Please don't worry. If he comes tell him I have gone
you do not know where. That will be true, for you don't. I hope you will
be very happy. I do hope so. Oh, John, you don't know how I hate to do
this, but I must. Don't tell Nat. He would do something terrible to him
if he came, and Nat knew. Just say I have been called away and may be
back some time. Perhaps I may. Love to you all. Good-by.

"Yours truly,

"KEZIAH COFFIN."


The captain stared at the note. Then he threw it to the floor and
started for the door. The minister sprang from his chair and called to
him.

"Nat," he cried. "Nat! Stop! where are you going?"

Hammond turned.

"Goin'?" he growled. "Goin'? I'm goin' to find her, first of all. Then
I'm comin' back to wait for him."

"But you won't have to wait. He'll never come. He's dead."

"Dead? DEAD? By the everlastin'! this has been too much for you, I ought
to have known it. I'll send the doctor here right off. I can't stay
myself. I've got to go. But--"

"Listen! listen to me! Ansel Coffin is dead, I tell you. I know it. I
know all about it. That was what I wanted to see you about. Did Keziah
tell you of the San Jose and the sailor who died of smallpox in this
very building? In that room there?"

"Yes. John, you--"

"I'm not raving. It's the truth. That sailor was Ansel Coffin. I watched
with him and one night, the night before he died, he spoke Keziah's
name. He spoke of New Bedford and of Trumet and of her, over and over
again. I was sure who he was then, but I called in Ebenezer Capen, who
used to know Coffin in New Bedford. And he recognized him. Nat, as sure
as you and I are here this minute, Ansel Coffin, Aunt Keziah's husband,
is buried in the Trumet cemetery."


CHAPTER XXI

IN WHICH MR. STONE WASHES HIS HANDS


Mr. Abner Stone, of Stone & Barker, marine outfitters and ship
chandlers, with a place of business on Commercial Street in Boston, and
a bank account which commanded respect throughout the city, was feeling
rather irritable and out of sorts. Poor relations are always a nuisance.
They are forever expecting something, either money--in Mr. Stone's case
this particular expectation was usually fruitless--or employment or
influence or something. Mr. Stone was rich, he had become so by his own
ability and unaided effort. He was sure of that--often mentioned it,
with more or less modesty, in the speeches which he delivered to his
Sunday-school class and at the dinners of various societies to which he
belonged. He was a self-made man and was conscious that he had done a
good job.

Therefore, being self-made, he saw no particular reason why he should
aid in the making of others. If people were poor they ought to get over
it. Poverty was a disease and he was no doctor. He had been poor once
himself, and no one had helped him. "I helped myself," he was wont to
say, with pride. Some of his rivals in business, repeating this remark,
smiled and added that he had been "helping himself" ever since.

Mr. Stone had "washed his hands" of his cousin, Keziah Coffin, or
thought he had. After her brother Solomon died she had written to him,
asking him to find her a position of some kind in Boston. "I don't want
money, I don't want charity," wrote Keziah. "What I want is work. Can
you get it for me, Abner? I write to you because father used to tell of
what you said to him about gratitude and how you would never rest until
you had done something in return for what he did for you."

Captain Ben Hall's kindness was the one thing Mr. Stone forgot when he
said no one had ever helped him. He disliked to be reminded of it. It
was a long while ago and the captain was dead. However, being reminded,
he had called upon a friend in the tailoring line and had obtained for
Keziah the place of sewing woman. She decided to become housekeeper at
the Trumet parsonage and so notified him. Then he washed his hands of
her.

But now he was compelled to soil them again. Keziah had appeared at
his office, without warning, and demanded that he find her a position.
"Demanded" was the proper word. Certainly she had not begged. She seemed
to feel that her demand was right and proper, and his acceding to it the
least he could do.

"What a fine place you've got here, Abner!" she said, inspecting the
office and the store. "I declare it's finer than the one you had when
you first went into business, afore you failed. I wish father could have
lived to see it. He'd have realized that his judgment was good, even
though his investment wasn't."

Captain Hall had invested largely in that first business, the one which
failed. Mr. Stone changed the subject. Later in the day he again sought
his friend, the tailor, and Keziah was installed in the loft of the
latter's Washington Street shop, beside the other women and girls who
sewed and sewed from seven in the morning until six at night. Mr. Stone
had left her there and come away, feeling that an unpleasant matter
was disposed of. He had made some inquiries as to where she intended
staying, even added a half-hearted invitation to dinner that evening at
his home. But she declined.

"No, thank you, Abner," she said, "I'm goin' to find a boardin' place
and I'd just as soon nobody knew where I was stayin', for the present.
And there's one thing I want to ask you: don't tell a soul I am here.
Not a soul. If anyone should come askin' for me, don't give 'em any
satisfaction. I'll tell you why some day, perhaps. I can't now."

This was what troubled Mr. Stone as he sat in his office. Why should
this woman wish to have her whereabouts kept a secret? There was a
reason for this, of course. Was it a respectable reason, or the other
kind? If the latter, his own name might be associated with the scandal.
He wished, for the fiftieth time, that there were no poor relations.

A boy came into the office. "There is some one here to see you, Mr.
Stone," he said.

"Who is it?"

"I don't know, sir. Looks like a seafaring man, a sea captain, I should
say--but he won't give his name. Says it's important and nobody but
you'll do."

"Humph! All right. Tell him to wait. I'll be out in a minute."

Sea captains and ship owners were Stone & Barker's best customers. The
senior partner emerged from the office with a smile on his face.

"Ah!" he said, extending his hand. "Glad to see you, Captain--er--"

"Hammond," replied the visitor. "Same to you, Mr. Stone."

"Fine weather for this time of year."

"Fine enough, Mr. Stone."

"Well, Captain Hammond, what can we do for you? Going to sail soon?"

"Not right away. Just made port, less'n a week ago. Home looks good to
me, for a spell, anyhow."

"So? Yes, I have no doubt. Let me see--where is your home, captain? I
should remember, of course, but--"

"Don't know why you should. This is my first trip in your latitude, I
guess. My home's at Trumet."

"Trumet?" Mr. Stone's tone changed.

"Yes. Trumet, down on the Cape. Ever been there? We think it's about as
good a place as there is."

"Hu-u-m! Trumet? Well, Captain Hammond, you wished to see me, I
understand."

"Yes. Fact is, Mr. Stone, I want to ask you where I can find Mrs. Keziah
Coffin. She's a relation of yours, I b'lieve, and she's come to Boston
lately. Only yesterday or the day afore. Can you tell me where she is?"

"Why do you wish to see her?"

"Oh, for reasons, personal ones. She's a friend of mine."

"I see. No, captain, I can't tell you where she is. Good morning."

Captain Nat was greatly disappointed.

"Hold on there, just a minute," he begged. "This is important, you
understand, Mr. Stone. I'm mighty anxious to find Kezi--Mrs. Coffin. We
thought, some of her friends and I, that most likely you'd know where
she was. Can't you give us any help at all? Hasn't she been here?"

"Good morning, Captain Hammond. You must excuse me, I'm busy."

He went into the office and closed the door. Captain Nat rubbed his
forehead desperately. He had been almost sure that Abner Stone would put
him on Keziah's track. Grace had thought so, too. She remembered what
the housekeeper had told concerning her Boston cousin and how the latter
had found employment for her when she contemplated leaving Trumet, after
her brother's death. Grace believed that Keziah would go to him at once.

Nat walked to the door and stood there, trying to think what to do next.
A smart young person, wearing a conspicuous suit of clothes, aided and
abetted by a vivid waistcoat and a pair of youthful but promising side
whiskers, came briskly along the sidewalk and stopped in front of him.

"Well, sir?" observed this person, with cheerful condescension.
"Anything I can do for you?"

Captain Nat turned his gaze upon the side whiskers and the waistcoat.

"Hey?" he queried.

"I say, is there anything I can do for you?"

The captain shook his head. "No-o," he drawled dryly, "I'm afraid not,
son. I admit that don't seem scarcely possible, but I am afraid it's
so."

"Looking for something in our line, was you?"

"Well, I don't know. What might be on your line--clothes?"

The bewhiskered one drew himself up. "I am connected with Stone &
Barker," he said sharply. "And, seeing you standing in our doorway, I
thought possibly--"

"Yes, yes. Beg your pardon, I'm sure. No, I don't want to buy anything.
I come to see Mr. Stone on a personal matter."

"He's busy, I suppose."

"So he says."

The young man smiled with serene satisfaction. "I'm not surprised," he
observed complacently. "We ARE a busy house, Mr--er--"

"Hammond's my name. Are you Mr. Barker?"

"No-o, my name is Prince."

"So? Silent partner in the firm, hey?"

"No-o, not exactly." Mr. Prince was slightly embarrassed. "No, I am a--a
salesman--at present. Was the matter you wished to see Mr. Stone about a
very private one?"

"Middlin'.'"

"Well, I asked because Mr. Stone is a busy man and we like to save him
all the--the--"

"Trouble you can, hey? That's nice of you, you must save him a lot,
Mr--er--King, was it?"

"No, Prince."

"Sure and sartin', Prince, of course. I knew 'twas connected with the
royal family. Well, Mr. Prince, I'm afraid even you can't help me nor
him out this time. I'm lookin' up a friend of mine, a widow lady from
down the Cape. She's a relation of Mr. Stone's, and she's come to Boston
durin' the last day or so. I thought likely he might know where she was,
that's all. That would be a little out of your latitude, hey?"

"I don't know. Her name wasn't Coffin, was it?"

Captain Nat started. "It certainly was," he answered eagerly. "How'd you
know that?"

Mr. Prince's complacence was superb. "Oh," he answered with
condescension, "Mr. Stone trusts me with a good many of his personal
affairs."

"I should think likely he would. But about Mrs. Coffin? You was goin' to
say?"

"She is with James Hallett & Co., the tailors, on Washington Street. Mr.
Stone found a place for her there, I believe. I--er--er--superintended
the carrying of her valise and--What?"

"Nothin', nothin'. Hum! Hallett & Co., tailors? What number Washin'ton
Street did you say?"

Mr. Prince gave the number.

"Thank you a lot," said Captain Nat, with fervor. "Good-by, Mr. Prince.
Hope the next time I come you'll be in the firm. Good day, sir."

"Good day. Nothing else I can do? And you won't wait for Mr. Stone? Very
good. Is there any message for him that you would like to leave?"

"Hey?" Nat had started to go, but now he paused and turned. There was
a grim twinkle in his eye. "Message?" he repeated. "Why, ye-es, I don't
know but there is. You just give Mr. Stone Cap'n Hammond's compliments
and tell him I'm lookin' forward to interviewin' him some time. Just
tell him that, will you?"

"I'll tell him. Glad to have met you, Captain Hammond."

The captain nodded solemnly. "Say, Mr. King," he said, "you ain't half
so glad as I am."

Mr. Prince strutted into the store.

"Who was that chap you were talking with?" asked a fellow-clerk.

"Oh, a hayseed who wanted to see the old man. Poor relation, I guess.
I headed him off. Stone is always telling us that time is money, so I
saved both of 'em for him. He ought to thank me. Wouldn't be surprised
if I got the raise I've been asking for."

Mr. Prince did not get the raise, nor the thanks. But he was surprised.


In the workshop of Hallett & Co., Keziah sat sewing busily. The window
near her was closed, stuck fast, and through the dingy panes she could
see only roofs and chimneys. The other women and girls near her
chatted and laughed, but she was silent. She did not feel like talking,
certainly not like laughing. The garment she was at work on was a coat,
a wedding coat, so the foreman had told her, with a smile; therefore she
must be very particular.

She wondered idly whose coat it might be and who its future wearer was
to marry. This reminded her of the minister and Grace. They would be
happy now, her talk with Nat had assured her of that, and they, too,
would be married one of these days. But she would not attend the
wedding. She wondered what John had said when he read her note. He and
Grace would be sorry for her, of course; but there was nothing they
could do to help. No one could help her, no one. Perhaps by this time
the man she had run away from had reached Trumet and her secret was
known. How Didama and the rest would spread the tale! How Captain
Elkanah and Annabel would sneer and exult! They hated her because she
was the minister's friend. And Nat, poor fellow, what would he do? Well,
at least he would understand now.

The narrow stairway leading up to the workshop ended in a little
boxed-in room where the finished garments were hung to await the final
pressing. From behind the closed door of this room came the sound of
voices, apparently in heated argument. One of these voices was that of
Larry, the errand boy. Larry was speaking shrilly and with emphasis. The
other voice was lower in key and the words were inaudible.

"No, sir, you can't," declared Larry. "You can't, I tell you. The boss
don't let nobody in there and--Hold on! Hold on!"

The other voice made a short but evidently earnest answer. Larry again
expostulated. The workers looked up from their sewing. The door opened
and Larry appeared, flushed and excited.

"Where's Mr. Upham?" he demanded. "Mr. Upham!"

Upham was the foreman of the workroom. At the moment he was downstairs
in conversation with the head of the house. A half dozen gave this
information.

"What's the matter? Who is it?" asked several.

"I don't know who 'tis. It's a man and he's crazy, I think. I told him
he couldn't come in here, but he just keeps comin'. He wants to see
somebody named Coffin and there ain't no Coffins here."

Keziah bent lower over the wedding coat. Her hand shook and she dropped
the needle.

"I told him we didn't keep coffins," declared Larry. "This ain't no
undertaker's. Where's Mr. Upham?"

Keziah's nearest neighbor leaned toward her.

"I guess it's somebody to see you," she said. "Your name is Coffin,
ain't it?"

"No, no. That is, it can't be anybody to see me. I don't want to see
anybody. Tell him so, whoever it is. I can't see anybody. I--NAT!"

He stood in the doorway, beckoning to her.

"Keziah," he said, "come here. I want you. I'll tell you why in a
minute. Come!"

She hesitated. In a measure she was relieved, for she had feared the
man at the door might be her husband. But she was greatly agitated and
troubled. Everyone in the place was looking at her.

"Nat," she said, trying to speak firmly, "I can't see you now. I'm very
busy. Please go away."

"Come!"

"I can't come. Go away. Please!"

"Keziah, I'm waitin'. And I'm goin' to wait if I stay here all night.
Come!"

She obeyed then. She could not have a scene there, before all those
strangers. She stepped past him into the little room. He followed and
closed the door.

"Nat," she said, turning to him, "why did you come? How could you be so
cruel? I--"

He interrupted her, but not with words. The next moment his arms were
about her and she was pressed tight against the breast of his blue
jacket.

"Keziah," he whispered, "I've come to take you home. Home for good. No,
stay where you are and I'll tell you all about it. Praise be to God!
we're off the rocks at last. All that's left is to tow you into port,
and, by the everlastin', that's what I'm here for!"


When Upham came up the stairs after his long interview with "the boss,"
he found the door at the top closed. When he rattled the latch that door
was opened by a stranger.

"Are you Mr. Hallett?" asked Captain Nat briskly.

"No, I'm not. Mr. Hallett is in his office on the first floor. But
what--"

"On the main deck, hey? Well, all right; we won't trouble him. You'll
do just as well; I judge you're one of the mates of this craft. You tell
Mr. Hallett that this lady here has decided not to cruise with him any
longer. No fault to find, you understand, but she's got a better berth.
She's goin' to ship along with me. Ain't that so, Keziah?"

Keziah, pale, trembling, scarcely realizing the situation even yet,
did not speak. But Captain Nat Hammond seemed to find his answer in her
silence. A few minutes later, her arm in his, they descended the gloomy,
dusty stairs, and emerged into the sunshine together.

That afternoon Mr. Abner Stone again "washed his hands" of his poor
relation--this time, as he indignantly declared, "for good and all."


CHAPTER XXII

IN WHICH KEZIAH'S PARSON PREACHES ONCE MORE


Time has wrought many changes in Trumet. The packet long since ceased to
ply between the village and Boston, the stage has been superseded by
the locomotive, the old "square-riggers," commanded by Cape Cod men, no
longer sail the seas. Along the main road the houses have changed hands.
Didama Rogers peers no more from her parlor window; that parlor is now
profaned by the frivolous and irreverent summer boarder. But the old
residents love to talk of the days that are gone and if you happen to
catch Mr. Isaac Higgins, now postmaster and a dignified member of the
board of selectmen, in a reminiscent mood he will very likely tell you
of the meeting of the parish committee called by its chairman, Elkanah
Daniels, to oust the Rev. John Ellery from the pulpit of the Regular
church.

"I'll never forget," says Mr. Higgins, "that parish committee meetin' if
I live a thousand year. I, and two or three other young shavers, was hid
in the little room off the vestry--the room where they kept the dishes
they used for church suppers--and we heard the whole business. Of course
nobody knew that Nat was goin' to marry Keziah then, but they did know
that he wa'n't goin' to marry Grace Van Horne, and had given her up
to the minister of his own accord. So Daniels's guns was spiked and he
didn't stand no chance at all. However, you'd never have guessed it
to look at him. He marched into that meetin' and up to the platform as
stiff and dignified as if he'd swallered a peck of starch. He called
the meetin' to order--'twas a full one, for all hands and the cook was
there--and then got up to speak.

"He opened fire right off. He raked John Ellery fore and aft. The
parson, he said, had disgraced the society and his sacred profession
and should be hove overboard immediate. 'Twas an open secret, he said.
Everybody knew how he, minister of a Reg'lar church, had been carryin'
on with a Come-Outer girl, meetin' her unbeknownst to anyone, and so on.
As he got warmed up on this subject he got more bitter and, though he
didn't come out open and say slanderous things, his hints was as nigh
that as a pig's snout is to his squeal. Even through the crack of the
dish-closet door I could see the bristles risin' on the back of Cap'n
Zeb Mayo's neck.

"At last Cap'n Zeb couldn't stand it no longer.

"'Belay there!' he sings out, jumpin' to his feet. 'I want to ask you
one question, Elkanah Daniels: Are you tryin' to say somethin' against
Grace Van Horne's character?'

"Well, that was a sort of sticker, in a way, and I cal'late Daniels
realized it. He 'hum-ha'd' and barked a little and then give in that he
couldn't swear the Van Horne person's character wa'n't all right, but--"

"'Couldn't swear!' snorts Zeb. 'You better not try to, not when the
minister or Nat's around. Aw, belay! you want us to fire John Ellery
out of this society--the best minister it ever had or ever will
have--because he had the sense to get sweet on a good clean girl and the
spunk to ask her to marry him. And you're down on her because she's been
brought up in a Come-Outer family--at least, that's the reason you give
out, though some of us have suspicions 'tain't the real one. Why! she
risked what she thought was smallpox to keep him from dyin' that night
she picked him up, ravin' distracted, in the middle of the lighthouse
lane, and if he hadn't married her after that I, for one, would have
been willin' to vote to give him his walkin' papers, Come-Outer she may
have been, but, by time, she's got religion that's good enough for me
and I'll be proud to see her the wife of my minister. Don't let's have
no more chin music. We know what you want and what you called this
meetin' for; now let's vote on it.'

"Three or four sung out 'Question' and 'Vote.' But Elkanah held up his
hand.

"'Gentlemen,' says he, 'before I ask for the vote I want to say just one
word. I've worshiped in this meetin' house ever sence I was a child. I
was christened in it; my father worshiped here afore me; I've presided
over the meetin's of this body for years. But I tell you now that if you
vote to keep that rascally hypocrite in your pulpit I shall resign from
the committee and from the society. It'll be like cuttin' off my right
hand, but I shall do it. Are you ready for the vote? Those in favor of
retaining the present minister of this parish will rise. Those opposed
will remain seated.'

"Every man on the floor stood up. Daniels himself was the only one that
stayed settin' down.

"'It is a vote,' says he, white as a sheet, and his voice trembling.
'Gentlemen, I bid you good day.'

"He took up his hat and cane, give one look around the vestry, as if
he was sayin' good-by to it, and marched down the aisle as straight and
starchy as he'd come into it. Only, when he reached the door, he put up
one hand as if he was steadyin' himself. There was precious few in that
vestry that liked Elkanah Daniels, but I'm bettin' high there wa'n't a
one who didn't feel sorry for him then.

"'Twas quiet as could be for a minute or so after he'd gone. Then Cap'n
Zeb draws a big breath and flings up his hand.

"'Shipmates,' says he, 'this is the Almighty's house and we've got to do
it quiet, but I propose three whisperin' cheers for the Rev. John Ellery
and the lady that's goin' to be his wife.'

"So they give 'em--hearty, too, if they was whispered--and that's all
there is to that meetin' worth tellin' about."

Captain Daniels and his daughter moved to Boston that summer. They never
came back to Trumet to live. Annabel remained single until after her
father's death; then she married a man very much younger and poorer
than she was. It was remarked by acquaintances of the couple that the
difference in age became less and less apparent as their married life
continued.

"Humph!" observed Captain Zeb, summing up the situation, "he started
about ten year astern, but he'll beat her on the run into the cemetery,
now you mark my words. Annabel's temper's cal'lated to keep any average
chap drivin' on that course, bows under. There's a three-reef breeze
blowin' off her tongue, day and night."

On a Sunday morning, a few weeks after the committee meeting, the
Regular church was crowded. John Ellery was to preach his first sermon
since the San Jose came ashore. Every member of the congregation was
present. Even Mrs. Prince, feeble but garrulous, was there. Gaius
Winslow, having delivered his brood of children at the church door, made
a special trip in his carryall to fetch the old lady. Captain Zebedee
and Mrs. Mayo beamed from their pew. Dr Parker and his wife smiled at
them across the aisle. Didama Rogers's new bonnet was a work of art and
her neck threatened to twist itself off as she turned to see each one
who came in.

Lavinia Pepper sailed to the front. She was dressed in a new black
alpaca which rustled so very much like silk that nearsighted people
might have been deceived by it. With her was a man, apparently suffering
from strangulation because of the height and tightness of his collar.
"It's Caleb Pratt, from Sandwich," whispered Didama. "Thankful Payne's
relation, you know. Have you heard what folks are sayin'? I guess
it's true, because--Look at Kyan! you'd think he was goin' to his own
funeral."

Abishai's expression was not cheerful, certainly. He followed Mr. Pratt
and his sister to the Pepper pew and subsided sadly in the corner next
the wall. Occasionally he was observed to wipe his forehead and once--it
was during the prayer--he groaned audibly. Lavinia's dig in the ribs
prevented his repeating the sound, but, judging by his looks, he
continued to groan in spirit.

There was a stir at the door. All heads swung in that direction--all but
Mr. Pepper's, that is. The minister and Grace were coming up the aisle
and behind them came Captain Nat Hammond and Keziah Coffin. Nat was
smiling and self-possessed. Never before in his life had he entered the
Regular meeting house as a worshiper, but he seemed to be bearing the
ordeal bravely. It was Grace's first visit to the church, also, and she
was plainly embarrassed. To be stared at by eighty-odd pairs of eyes,
and to catch whispered comments from the starers' tongues, is likely to
embarrass one.

Yet the comments were all friendly.

"I declare!" whispered Mrs. Prince, "I never see her look so pretty
afore. I knew she was the best lookin' girl in this town, but I never
realized she was SUCH a beauty. Well, there's one thing sartin'--we've
got the handsomest parson and parson's wife in THIS county, by about ten
mile and four rows of apple trees. And there's the other bride that's
goin' to be. I never see Keziah look so well, neither."

Keziah did look well. Her parson had emerged triumphant from his battle
with disease and adverse fate and was more than ever the idol of his
congregation. He was to marry the girl of his choice--and hers. The
housekeeper's ears were still ringing with the thanks of John and Grace.
Both seemed to feel that to her, Keziah Coffin, more than anyone else,
they owed their great joy. Some of the things they said she would never
forget. And her own life, too, was freed forever of its burden, the
secret which had hung over her for so many years. Only a very few knew
that secret, and they would not disclose it. Toward the memory of the
man buried in the stranger's lot at the cemetery she felt almost
kindly now. While he lived she had feared and dreaded him, now she was
beginning to forgive. For he had paid his debt with his life, and with
her, beside her, was the other, the one whom she had loved, had given
up, had mourned for, and who was now to be hers always. No wonder Keziah
looked well. She was happy, and happiness is a wondrous beautifier.

The minister went up the stairs to the pulpit. He was still white and
thin, but his eyes were bright and his voice clear. He gave out the
opening hymn and the service began.

They said it was the finest sermon ever preached in that church, and
perhaps it was. When it was over, before the benediction was pronounced,
Ellery stepped out from behind the pulpit to the edge of the platform.
He looked over the friendly faces upturned to his and, for an instant,
it seemed that he could not trust himself to speak.

"My friends," he said, "I cannot let you go without a personal word. I
owe you so much, all of you, that nothing I can say will convey to you
my feeling of gratitude and love for this congregation and this church.
You have stood by me all through. You trusted me and believed in me. I
came to Trumet a stranger. I have found here the truest friends a man
could hope to find--yes, and more than friends. If I live, and while
I live, I shall hope to prove by the best effort that is in me my
realization of the great debt I owe you and my desire to repay it, even
though the payment must, of necessity, be so inadequate. God bless you
all--and thank you."

"Wa'n't it lovely!" gushed Didama. "And when he said that about true
friends he was lookin' straight at Gracie all the time."

"Didn't seem to me so," declared Gaius Winslow. "I thought he was
lookin' at Cap'n Hammond."

"Well, now, that's queer," put in Mrs. Parker, the doctor's wife. "I
would have sworn he was looking at Keziah Coffin."

Captain Zebedee grinned. "I cal'late you're all right," he observed. "I
wouldn't wonder if he was lookin' at all of 'em."

There was much hand shaking and congratulation and the church emptied
slowly. Among the last to leave were the Peppers and Mr. Pratt. Lavinia
took the minister aside.

"Mr. Ellery," she simpered, "I've--that is, Caleb and me--will prob'ly
want you to--That is, we want you to be the one--"

"Yes, Miss Pepper?"

"Oh, my sakes! you see--'Bishy dear, come here a minute, won't you?"

Kyan approached, the picture of desolation.

"What do you want?" he asked gruffly.

"Heavens to Betsy! Don't look so sour. A body'd think you was goin'
to be hung, to look at you. 'Bishy, you tell Mr. Ellery all about it,
there's a dear. He'll tell you, Mr. Ellery; and remember we count on
you. Neither me nor Caleb wont have nobody else."

She seized Mr. Pratt by the arm and led him hastily away. Kyan looked
after them.

"Hung?" he muttered. "I wish, by godfreys mighty, I had the hangin' of
SOME folks! I'd put a tighter collar on 'em than they've got now, I bet
you!"

The minister's lips twitched. He knew what was coming. Hints of a
surprising nature had been circulating about Trumet.

"What's the matter, Mr. Pepper?" he asked.

"Matter? Matter enough! You know what she's goin' to do? She's goin' to
marry THAT!"

The last word was emphasized by a furious gesticulation toward the back
of the gentleman from Sandwich.

"Who? Mr. Pratt? Is your sister to marry him? Indeed! I congratulate
them both--and you."

"Me? What in tunket--I ask your pardon, Mr. Ellery, for talkin' so in
the meetin' house--but what are you congratulatin' me for?"

"Why, because your sister is to have a good husband; at least people
speak highly of him."

"Ugh!"

"And because--well, Mr. Pepper, you have been quite confidential with
me; we have shared secrets, you know; and I thought possibly the new
arrangement might make it a bit more pleasant for you."

"Pleasant? How?"

"I suppose Mr. Pratt will take his bride home to Sandwich, and you,
being here alone, will be more free."

"Free?" Kyan repeated the word wrathfully. "Free! I'll be about as free
as a settin' hen under a barrel, I will. Is a feller free when he's
got two pickin' at him instead of one? I thought I was goin' to have a
little peace and comfort; I thought that same as you, Mr. Ellery. I've
had my suspicions as to her and him for some time. That day when I
cal'lated I'd locked her up and come back to find she'd gone buggy
ridin', I thought 'twas queer. When she went to conference and left
me alone I smelt a rat. When she took to letter writin' the smell got
stronger; until the last few weeks I've been sartin of the game she was
up to. And I never complained, no sir! Some brothers would have ripped
up the eternal foundations afore they'd have let their sister break
up their home and desert 'em for a stiff-necked, bald-headed old shoe
peddler like--"

"Hush! hush! Mr. Pepper. You forget--"

"No, I don't forget, nuther. Mr. Ellery, you don't know it all. When
Laviny come to me and told me what she was goin' to do, was I obstinate?
Did I stand on my rights as head of the family and tell her she couldn't
do it? No, sir-ee, I didn't! I was resigned. I says to her, 'Laviny,'
I says, 'I won't say that I shan't be turrible lonesome without you. I
won't say that I ain't sort of shocked and grieved at our partin' after
all these years. But what's my personal feelin's when I compare 'em with
your happiness? Nothin', nothin' at all!' I says. 'Bless you, Laviny,'
says I. 'When you goin' to go away?' And what do you s'pose she says to
me? Why, that she wa'n't goin' away at all. That--that Pratt thing
has sold out his shoe store up to Sandwich and is comin' here to live.
Comin' to live at our HOUSE, mind you, with her and with ME! ''Twill be
so nice for you, 'Bishy dear,' she says, 'to have a man in the house
to keep you comp'ny and look out for you when I ain't round.' Godfreys
mighty!"

This portion of Kyan's disclosure was surprising, if the announcement of
his sister's engagement was not.

"Mr. Pratt is coming to Trumet?" the minister repeated. "What for? What
is he going to do here?"

"Keep shoe store, I s'pose likely. Laviny says there's a good openin'
for one in this town. I told her the best openin' I could think of for
him was the well and I hoped to the nation he'd fall into it. Then she
went for me like a dogfish after a herrin' and I never had a taste of
vittles till I'd took it all back and said I was glad he was goin' to
live with us. Free! Don't talk to me about freedom! Godfreys mighty!"

Ellery smothered his desire to laugh and expressed sympathy. Abishai
listened in sullen silence.

"Well," he said, turning to go, "I ain't goin' to stand it, if I can
help it. I've been doin' some thinkin' on my own account and there's
two ways of gettin' even. That Caleb critter is marryin' into our family
'cause he knows I'm well off. I'll cheat him, by godfreys! I'll will
every cent of my fifteen hundred dollars to the poor or the heathen or
somethin'. I will, sure's taxes."

The minister was obliged to laugh, then.

"I wouldn't do that," he said. "From what I hear, Mr. Pratt is worth
several times fifteen hundred."

"I know it; but he's so dum mean that 'twould break his heart to see
even ten cents gettin' away from him. However, that ain't my only plan.
He and Laviny ain't got any mortgage on the marryin' business.
Other folks can do it as well as them. What do you think of Hannah
Poundberry?"

"What do I think of her? What do you mean?"

"Never mind what I mean. Just you keep that in your head, Mr. Ellery.
You remember that I asked you, as man to man, 'What do you think of
Hannah Poundberry?'--Yes, yes, Laviny, I'm a-comin'. They want me to
ask you to marry 'em," he added. "I s'pose you'll have to. But say, Mr.
Ellery, when you do, just tell Pratt that your usual price for the
job is ten dollars. That'll spile his honeymoon for him, or I miss my
guess."

He turned away and moved sulkily toward his beckoning sister and her
escort; but wheeled once more to add, in a mysterious whisper, "Don't
you forget now, Mr. Ellery. Remember that question I put to you: 'What
do you think of'--Yes, yes, La-viny, I hear you!--of you know who?'"


That evening, at the parsonage, Keziah was clearing the table and
Captain Nat was helping her. A happy party of four had enjoyed the meal,
John and Mrs. Coffin acting as hosts and Grace and the captain being the
invited guests. Now the younger couple had gone over to the church, the
bell of which was ringing for evening service.

"Hurry up, Keziah," urged Nat. "If you and me don't get decks cleared
pretty soon we'll be late for meetin', and I'd hate to do that,
considerin' I'm such a brand-new disciple, as you might say. What do we
do next, shorten sail? Like this, hey?"

He pulled the cloth from the table, sending the crumbs flying in all
directions, and proceeded to fold it, after a fashion.

"There!" he exclaimed with satisfaction; "there she is, canvas furled
and under bare poles. Now we can clear out, can't we? What's the
matter?"

Keziah took the cloth from his hands and refolded it.

"Nat Hammond," she said, laughing, "you may be a good sailor, but you're
an awful poor housekeeper. Look at the mess you've made of that floor."

Nat looked at the scattered crumbs and shook his head.

"By the everlastin'!" he observed, "I did make dirty weather on that
tack, didn't I? Cal'late I ain't much of a housekeeper, same as you say.
Maybe that's why I was so dreadful anxious to get a good one to cruise
along with me. Well, I've got her. I'm satisfied."

He walked to the back door of the kitchen, threw it open, and stood
looking out.

"Keziah," he said, "come here a minute."

She came from the dining room and stood at his side. He put an arm about
her.

"Look off there," he said, pointing with his free hand. "See that?"

The sun was just setting and all the west was gorgeous with crimson and
purple and yellow. The bay was spangled with fire, the high sand bluffs
along the shore looked like broken golden ingots. The fields and swamps
and salt meadows, rich in their spring glory of bud and new leaf, were
tinged with the ruddy glow. The Trumet roofs were bathed in it, the
old packet, asleep at her moorings by the breakwater, was silhouetted
against the radiance. The church bell had ceased to ring and there was
not a sound, except the low music of the distant surf.

"Look at it, Keziah," urged Captain Nat.

"I'm lookin', Nat," she answered. "It's beautiful."

"Ain't it? I love it, you know that, and I never thought I should be
anxious for the time to come when I must leave it. But I am. I want to
go."

They were to be married in another month. It would be a double wedding,
for Grace and the minister were to be married at the same time. Then Nat
and his wife were to go to New York, where a new ship, just out of
the builders' hands, was to be ready for him. She was a fine one, this
successor to the Sea Mist. She had been building for more than a year
and when Captain Hammond returned, safe and sound, and with their money
in his possession, the owners decided at once that he should command the
addition to their fleet. She was to sail for Liverpool and Keziah was to
be a passenger.

"I can't hardly wait to get to sea," went on Nat. "Think of it! No more
lonesome meals in the cabin, thinkin' about you and about home. No, sir!
you and home'll be right aboard with me. Think of the fun we'll have in
the foreign ports. London, and you and me goin' sightseein' through it!
And Havre and Gibraltar and Marseilles and Genoa and--and--by and by,
Calcutta and Hong Kong and Singapore. I've seen 'em all, of course, but
you haven't. I tell you, Keziah, that time when I first saw a real hope
of gettin' you, that time after I'd learned from John that that big
trouble of yours was out of the way forever, on my way up to Boston in
the cars I made myself a promise--I swore that if you did say yes to me
I'd do my best to make the rest of your life as smooth and pleasant as
the past so far had been rough. I ain't rich enough to give you what you
deserve, nowhere near; but I'll work hard and do my best, my girl--you
see."

Keziah was looking out over the bay, her eyes brighter than the sunset.
Now she turned to look up into his face.

"Rich!" she repeated, with a little catch in her voice. "Rich! there
never was a woman in this world so rich as I am this minute. Or so
happy, either."





End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Keziah Coffin, by Joseph C. Lincoln

*** END OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK KEZIAH COFFIN ***

***** This file should be named 2068.txt or 2068.zip *****
This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:
        http://www.gutenberg.org/2/0/6/2068/

Produced by Donald Lainson

Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial
redistribution.



*** START: FULL LICENSE ***

THE FULL PROJECT GUTENBERG LICENSE
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU DISTRIBUTE OR USE THIS WORK

To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at
http://gutenberg.org/license).


Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United
States.

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or
1.E.9.

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (www.gutenberg.org),
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided
that

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.

1.F.

1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

1.F.2.  LIMITED WARRANTY, DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES - Except for the "Right
of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal
fees.  YOU AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE, STRICT
LIABILITY, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR BREACH OF CONTRACT EXCEPT THOSE
PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH F3.  YOU AGREE THAT THE FOUNDATION, THE
TRADEMARK OWNER, AND ANY DISTRIBUTOR UNDER THIS AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE
LIABLE TO YOU FOR ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR
INCIDENTAL DAMAGES EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH
DAMAGE.

1.F.3.  LIMITED RIGHT OF REPLACEMENT OR REFUND - If you discover a
defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS' WITH NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PURPOSE.

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.


Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at http://www.pglaf.org.


Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Its 501(c)(3) letter is posted at
http://pglaf.org/fundraising.  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email
business@pglaf.org.  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at http://pglaf.org

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director
     gbnewby@pglaf.org


Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit http://pglaf.org

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including checks, online payments and credit card donations.
To donate, please visit: http://pglaf.org/donate


Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.


Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.


Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

     http://www.gutenberg.org

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.

Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext2068, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext2068



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."