Part 4 out of 7
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
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
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
"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
"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
"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
She looked at the doctor as she asked it. He shook his head
"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
"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
"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
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
Dr. Parker brushed by the others and bent over the bed.
"Well, cap'n," he said cheerily, "how's she headed? How are you
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
"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
"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,
"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
Keziah clasped her hands. Captain Eben's face lit up with a great
"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
"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
"Yes, Nat, I--I think your father's right."
"Then--then--what difference does-- All right, dad. Just as Grace
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
"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
"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
"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--"
"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
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,
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
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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Alive?" he repeated. "Your husband ALIVE? Why, Mrs. Coffin, this
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
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
Her face lit up. "Will you?" she said. "I thought you would. I
was sure you was that kind."
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
"Thank you for coming, Aunt Keziah," she said. "I was sure you
"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
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
"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,
"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
"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
"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.