Part 1 out of 7
This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Joseph C. Lincoln
I.--IN WHICH KEZIAH HEARS OF TWO PROPOSALS AND THE BEGINNING OF A
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
by Joseph C. Lincoln
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
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
"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
"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
Consequently, when he appeared, unchaperoned, on the walk leading
to the side door of the Coffin homestead, Keziah and her friend
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"Known you? Known you ever since you were born, pretty nigh. What
"Yes, yes. And I've known you, you know. Fact is, we've known
"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
"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
Keziah's face was red now, and growing redder every instant.
"Kyan Pepper!" she cried in amazed incredulity. "Kyan Pepper, do
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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.
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
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'
"You're not? Oh, splendid! Has the cap'n decided to let you stay
"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
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
"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,
"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?
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
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
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."
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"Patient!" she repeated sharply. "Well, I like that! What do you
mean by-- Open that door! Grace, run out and get the--the
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
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.
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
'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
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
"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
"Oh, Grace Van Horne! She's all right. She won't tell. She ain't
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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'
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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.
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--
"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.