Part 5 out of 7
Annabel was not satisfied with this explanation. Of course, she
said, she did not pretend to believe Grace's statement that she had
found her uncle unconscious. No doubt the pair had had an
interview and all that. But she believed the minister himself had
come to his senses and had dismissed the brazen creature. She did
not blame Mr. Ellery so much. He was a young man, with a kind
heart, and no doubt the "Van Horne person" had worked upon his
sympathies and had taken advantage of his inexperience of feminine
"I think, pa," she said, "that it's our duty, yours and mine, to
treat him just as we always have. He doesn't know that we know,
and we will keep the secret. And, as Christians, we should forget
and forgive. We'll invite him here as we always have, keep him
under our good influence, and be very kind to him, poor innocent.
As for Captain Hammond, I'm sorry for him, knowing the kind of wife
he is going to have, but no doubt Come-Outers are not particular."
Kyan Pepper was another whom the news of the engagement surprised
greatly. When Lavinia told him of it, at the dinner table, he
dropped the knife he was holding and the greasy section of fish-
ball balanced upon it.
"'Bishy," said Miss Pepper, "what do you s'pose has happened down
to the Hammond tavern?"
"Oh, I know that," was the reply. "I heard that long ago; Cap'n
"'Course he's dead; and I knew you knew it. Land sakes! don't be
such a ninny. Why, I told you myself."
"Well, I didn't know but you'd forgot. Anybody's li'ble to forget
who they've told things to. Why, I've forgot more things--"
"Yes, there ain't no doubt about that. I've told you a million
times, if I have once, to tuck your napkin round your neck when
you've got your Sunday clothes on. And there you be this minute
without a sign of a napkin."
"Why, Laviny! I MUST have it round my neck. I know I--"
"Don't be so foolish! Think I'm blind? Can't I see you ain't got
it? Now where is it?"
Kyan began a futile hunt for the missing napkin, in his lap, on the
table, and finally under it.
"I don't understand," he stammered, "where that napkin can be. I'm
just as sure I had it and now I'm just as sure I ain't got it.
What do you s'pose I done with it?"
"Goodness knows! 'Twouldn't surprise me if you'd et it, you're
that absent-minded. Here! what's that stickin' out of your breast
Her brother put his hand to the pocket indicated and produced the
missing napkin, much crumpled.
"There!" he exclaimed, in a tone of relief. "Now I remember. It
must have dropped on the floor and I thought 'twas my handkerchief
and picked it up and--"
"What did you think you'd be carryin' a white handkerchief for, on
a week day?"
"Well, I had on my Sunday suit and--"
"Yes, and for the dear mercy sakes WHY have you got it on?"
Kyan saw an opportunity for self-justification.
"You TOLD me to put it on," he declared triumphantly. "You said
yourself I'd better rig out in my Sunday clothes 'cause we might go
to Eben's funeral. You know you did."
"Hear the man! And then, after you've dressed up to go to his
funeral, you pretend to believe I'm goin' to tell you he's dead. I
"Well, what IS it, then? He ain't come to life, has he?"
"Grace Van Horne's engaged to be married, that's what it is. Look
out! Oh, you--"
Just here occurred the accident already described. Knife and fish
ball descended upon the waistcoat belonging to the "Sunday suit."
Lavinia flew for warm water, ammonia, and a cloth, and the soiled
waistcoat was industriously scrubbed. The cleansing process was
accompanied by a lively tongue lashing, to which Kyan paid little
"Engaged?" he kept repeating. "Gracie Van Horne engaged? Engaged?
"Be still, you poll parrot! Dear! dear! dear! look at them spots.
Yes, yes; don't say it again; she's engaged."
"Now you've turned to an owl, I do believe. 'Hoo! hoo!' She's
engaged to Nat Hammond, that's who. Nothin' very surprisin' about
that, is there?"
Kyan made no answer. He rubbed his forehead, while his sister
rubbed the grease spots. In jerky sentences she told of the
engagement and how the news had reached her.
"I can't believe it," faltered Abishai. "She goin' to marry Nat!
Why, I can't understand. I thought--"
"What did you think? See here! you ain't keepin' anything from me,
The answer was enthusiastically emphatic.
"No, no, no, no!" declared Kyan. "Only I didn't know they was--
"Neither did anybody else, but what of it? Folks don't usually
advertise when they're keepin' comp'ny, do they?"
"No--o. But it's gen'rally found out. I know if I was keepin'
comp'ny--or you was, La-viny--"
His sister started.
"What makes you say that?" she demanded, looking quickly up from
"Why, nothin'. Only if I was--or you was, somebody'd see somethin'
suspicious and kind of drop a hint, and--"
"Better for them if they 'tended to their own affairs," was the
sharp answer. "I ain't got any patience with folks that's always
talkin' about their neighbor's doin's. There! now you go out and
stand alongside the cook stove till that wet place dries. Don't
you move till 'TIS dry, neither."
So to the kitchen went Kyan, to stand, a sort of living
clotheshorse, beside the hot range. But during the drying process
he rubbed his forehead many times. Remembering what he had seen in
the grove he could not understand; but he also remembered, even
more vividly, what Keziah Coffin had promised to do if he ever
breathed a word. And he vowed again that that word should not be
The death and funeral of Captain Eben furnished Trumet with a
subject of conversation for a week or more. Then, at the sewing
circle and at the store and after prayer meeting, both at the
Regular meeting house and the Come-Outer chapel, speculation
centered on the marriage of Nat and Grace. When was it to take
place? Would the couple live at the old house and "keep packet
tavern" or would the captain go to sea again, taking his bride with
him? Various opinions, pro and con, were expressed by the
speculators, but no one could answer authoritatively, because none
knew except those most interested, and the latter would not tell.
John Ellery heard the discussions at the sewing circle when, in
company with some of the men of his congregation, he dropped in at
these gatherings for tea after the sewing was over. He heard them
at church, before and after the morning service, and when he made
pastoral calls. People even asked his opinion, and when he changed
the subject inferred, some of them, that he did not care about the
doings of Come-Outers. Then they switched to inquiries concerning
"You look awful peaked lately, Mr. Ellery," said Didama Rogers.
"Ain't you feelin' well?"
The minister answered that he was as well as usual, or thought he
"No, no, you ain't nuther," declared Didama. "You look's if you
was comin' down with a spell of somethin'. I ain't the only one
that's noticed it. Why, Thankful Payne says to me only yesterday,
'Didama,' says she, 'the minister's got somethin' on his mind and
it's wearin' of him out.' You ain't got nothin' on your mind, have
you, Mr. Ellery?"
"I guess not, Mrs. Rogers. It's a beautiful afternoon, isn't it?
"There! I knew you wa'n't well. A beautiful afternoon, and it
hotter'n furyation and gettin' ready to rain at that! Don't tell
me! 'Tain't your mind, Mr. Ellery, it's your blood that's gettin'
thin. My husband had a spell just like it a year or two afore he
died, and the doctor said he needed rest and a change. Said he'd
ought to go away somewheres by himself. I put my foot down on THAT
in a hurry. 'The idea!' I says. 'You, a sick man, goin' off all
alone by yourself to die of lonesomeness. If you go, I go with
you.' So him and me went up to Boston and it rained the whole week
we was there, and we set in a little box of a hotel room with a
window that looked out at a brick wall, and set and set and set,
and that's all. I kept talkin' to him to cheer him up, but he
never cheered. I'd talk to him for an hour steady and when I'd
stop and ask a question he'd only groan and say yes, when he meant
no. Finally, I got disgusted, after I'd asked him somethin' four
or five times and he'd never answered, and I told him, I believed
he was gettin' deef. 'Lordy!' he says, ' I wish I was!' Well,
that was enough for ME. Says I, 'If your mind's goin' to give out
we'd better be home.' So home we come. And that's all the good
change and rest done HIM. Hey? What did you say, Mr. Ellery?"
"Er--oh, nothing, nothing, Mrs. Rogers."
"Yes. So home we come and I'd had enough of doctors to last. I
figgered out that his blood was thinnin' and I knew what was good
for that. My great Aunt Hepsy, that lived over to East Wellmouth,
she was a great hand for herbs and such and she'd give me a receipt
for thickenin' the blood that was somethin' wonderful. It had more
kind of healin' herbs in it than you could shake a stick at. I
cooked a kittleful and got him to take a dose four times a day. He
made more fuss than a young one about takin' it. Said it tasted
like the Evil One, and such profane talk, and that it stuck to his
mouth so's he couldn't relish his vittles; but I never let up a
mite. He had to take it and it done him a world of good. Now I've
got that receipt yet, Mr. Ellery, and I'll make some of that
medicine for you. I'll fetch it down to-morrow. Yes, yes, I will.
I'm agoin' to, so you needn't say no. And perhaps I'll have heard
somethin' about Cap'n Nat and Grace by that time."
She brought the medicine, and the minister promptly, on her
departure, handed it over to Keziah, who disposed of it just as
"What did I do with it?" repeated the housekeeper. "Well, I'll
tell you. I was kind of curious to see what 'twas like, so I took
a teaspoonful. I did intend to pour the rest of it out in the
henyard, but after that taste I had too much regard for the hens.
So I carried it way down to the pond and threw it in, jug and all.
B-r-r-r! Of all the messes that--I used to wonder what made Josh
Rogers go moonin' round makin' his lips go as if he was crazy. I
thought he was talkin' to himself, but now I know better, he was
Keziah was the life of the gloomy parsonage. Without her the
minister would have broken down. Time and time again he was
tempted to give up, in spite of his promise, and leave Trumet, but
her pluck and courage made him ashamed of himself and he stayed to
fight it out. She watched him and tended him and "babied" him as
if he was a spoiled child, pretending to laugh at herself for doing
it and at him for permitting it. She cooked the dishes he liked
best, she mended his clothes, she acted as a buffer between him and
callers who came at inopportune times. She was cheerful always
when he was about, and no one would have surmised that she had a
sorrow in the world. But Ellery knew and she knew he knew, so the
affection and mutual esteem between the two deepened. He called
her "Aunt Keziah" at her request and she continued to call him
"John." This was in private, of course; in public he was "Mr.
Ellery" and she "Mrs. Coffin."
In his walks about town he saw nothing of Grace. She and Mrs.
Poundberry and Captain Nat were still at the old home and no one
save themselves knew what their plans might be. Yet, oddly enough,
Ellery was the first outsider to learn these plans and that from
He met the captain at the corner of the "Turnoff" one day late in
August. He tried to make his bow seem cordial, but was painfully
aware that it was not. Nat, however, seemed not to notice, but
crossed the road and held out his hand.
"How are you, Mr. Ellery?" he said. "I haven't run across you for
sometime. What's the matter? Seems to me you look rather under
Ellery answered that he was all right and, remembering that he had
not met the captain since old Hammond's death, briefly expressed
his sympathy. His words were perfunctory and his manner cold. His
reason told him that this man was not to blame--was rather to be
pitied, if Keziah's tale was true. Yet it is hard to pity the one
who is to marry the girl you love. Reason has little to do with
"Well, Mr. Ellery," said Captain Nat, "I won't keep you. I see
you're in a hurry. Just thought I'd run alongside a minute and say
good-by. Don't know's I'll see you again afore I sail."
"Before you sail? You--you are going away?"
"Yup. My owners have been after me for a good while, but I
wouldn't leave home on account of dad's health. Now he's gone,
I've got to be gettin' back on salt water again. My ship's been
drydocked and overhauled and she's in New York now loadin' for
Manila. It's a long vy'age, even if I come back direct, which
ain't likely. So I may not see the old town again for a couple of
years. Take care of yourself, won't you? Good men, especially
ministers, are scurse, and from what I hear about you I cal'late
Trumet needs you."
"When are you going?"
"Last of next week, most likely."
"Will you--shall you go alone? Are you to be--to be--"
"Married? No. Grace and I have talked it over and we've agreed
it's best to wait till I come back. You see, dad's been dead such
a little while, and all, that--well, we're goin' to wait, anyhow.
She'll stay in the old house with Hannah, and I've fixed things so
she'll be provided for while I'm gone. I left it pretty much to
her. If she'd thought it best for us to marry now, I cal'late I
should have--have--well, done what she wanted. But she didn't.
Ah, hum!" he added with a sigh; "she's a good girl, a mighty good
girl. Well, so long and good luck."
"Good-by. Er--I say, Mr. Ellery, how things at the parsonage? All
well there, are you?"
"Er--Keziah--Mrs. Coffin, your housekeeper, is she smart?"
"Yes. She's well."
"That's good. Say, you might tell her good-by for me, if you want
to. Tell her I wished her all the luck there was. And--and--just
say that there ain't any--well, that her friend--say just that,
will you?--her FRIEND said 'twas all right. She'll understand;
it's a--a sort of joke between us."
"Very good, captain; I'll tell her."
"Much obliged. And just ask her to keep an eye on Grace while I'm
gone. Tell her I leave Gracie under her wing. Keziah and me are
old chums, in a way, you see."
"Yes. I'll tell her that, too."
"And don't forget the 'friend' part. Well, so long."
They shook hands and parted.
Didama and her fellow news-venders distributed the tale of Captain
Nat's sailing broadcast during the next few days. There was much
wonderment at the delayed marriage, but the general verdict was
that Captain Eben's recent death and the proper respect due to it
furnished sufficient excuse. Hannah Poundberry, delighted at being
so close to the center of interest, talked and talked, and thus
Grace was spared the interviews which would have been a trouble to
her. Nat left town, via the packet, on the following Wednesday.
Within another week came the news that his ship, the Sea Mist, had
sailed from New York, bound for Manila. Her topsails sank beneath
the horizon, and she vanished upon the wild waste of tumbling waves
and out of Trumet's knowledge, as many another vessel, manned and
officered by Cape Cod men, had done. The village talked of her and
her commander for a few days and then forgot them both. Only at
the old home by the landing and at the parsonage were they
IN WHICH TRUMET TALKS OF CAPTAIN NAT
Summer was over, autumn came, passed, and it was winter--John
Ellery's first winter in Trumet. Fish weirs were taken up, the bay
filled with ice, the packet ceased to run, and the village settled
down to hibernate until spring. The stage came through on its
regular trips, except when snow or slush rendered the roads
impassable, but passengers were very few. Occasionally there were
northeast gales, with shrieking winds, driving gusts of sleet and
hail and a surf along the ocean side that bellowed and roared and
tore the sandy beach into new shapes, washing away shoals and
building others, blocking the mouth of the little inlet where the
fish boats anchored and opening a new channel a hundred yards
farther down. Twice there were wrecks, one of a fishing schooner,
the crew of which were fortunate enough to escape by taking to the
dories, and another, a British bark, which struck on the farthest
bar and was beaten to pieces by the great waves, while the
townspeople stood helplessly watching from the shore, for launching
a boat in that surf was impossible.
The minister was one of those who watched. News of the disaster
had been brought to the village by the lightkeeper's assistant, and
Ellery and most of the able-bodied men in town had tramped the
three miles to the beach, facing the screaming wind and the cutting
blasts of flying sand. As they came over the dunes there were
times when they had to dig their heels into the ground and bend
forward to stand against the freezing gale. And, as they drew
nearer, the thunder of the mighty surf grew ever louder, until they
saw the white clouds of spray leap high above the crazily tossing,
flapping bunches of beach grass that topped the last knoll.
Three masts and a broken bowsprit sticking slantwise up from a
whirl of creamy white, that was all they could see of the bark, at
first glance. But occasionally, as the breakers drew back for
another cruel blow, they caught glimpses of the tilted deck,
smashed bare of houses and rail.
"Those black things on the masts?" asked Ellery, bending to scream
the question into the ear of Gaius Winslow, his companion. "Are
they--it can't be possible that they're--"
"Yup," shrieked Gaius in reply, "they're men. Crew lashed in the
riggin'. Poor fellers! it'll soon be over for 'em. And they're
most likely frozen stiff a'ready and won't sense drownin', that's a
"Men!" repeated the minister in horror. Men! Great God! and are
we to stand by here and see them die without lifting a hand? Why,
it's barbarous! It's--"
Winslow seized his arm and pointed.
"Look!" he shouted. "Look at them! How much good would our
liftin' hands do against them?"
Ellery looked. The undertow, that second, was sucking the beach
dry, sucking with such force that gravel and small stones pattered
down the slope in showers. And behind it a wave, its ragged top
raveled by the wind into white streamers, was piling up, up, up,
sheer and green and mighty, curling over now and descending with a
hammer blow that shook the land beneath their feet. And back of it
reared another, and another, and another, an eighth of a mile of
whirling, surging, terrific breakers, with a yelling hurricane
whipping them on.
It was soon over, as Gaius had said it would be. A mighty leap of
spray, a section of hull broken off and tossed into view for an
instant, then two of the masts went down. The other followed
almost at once. Then the watchers, most of them, went back to the
village, saying little or nothing and dispersing silently to their
During the next fortnight John Ellery conducted six funeral
services, brief prayers beside the graves of unknown men from that
wreck. The bodies, as they were washed ashore, were put into plain
coffins paid for by the board of selectmen, and buried in the
corner of the Regular cemetery beside other waifs thrown up by the
sea in other years. It was a sad experience for him, but it was an
experience and tended to make him forget his own sorrow just a
little. Or, if not to forget, at least to think of and sympathize
more keenly with the sorrows of others. Somewhere, in England or
Ireland or scattered over the wide world, there were women and
children waiting for these men, waiting anxiously for news of their
safe arrival in port, praying for them. When he mentioned this
thought to the townspeople they nodded philosophically and said
yes, they "presumed likely." As Captain Zeb put it, "Most sailors
are fools enough to get married, prob'ly this lot wa'n't any
exception." It was no new thought to him or to any other dweller
in that region. It was almost a fixed certainty that, if you went
to sea long enough, you were bound to be wrecked sometime or other.
The chances were that, with ordinary luck and good management, you
would escape with your life. Luck, good or bad, was the risk of
the trade; good management was expected, as a matter of course.
Mr. Pepper made no more calls at the parsonage, and when the
minister met him, at church or elsewhere, seemed anxious to avoid
"Well, Abishai," asked Ellery, on one of these occasions, "how are
you getting on at home? Has your sister locked you up again?"
"No, sir, she ain't," replied Kyan. "Laviny, she's sort of
diff'rent lately. She ain't nigh so--so down on a feller as she
used to be. I can get out once in a while by myself nowadays, when
she wants to write a letter or somethin'."
"Oh, she's writing letters, is she?"
"Um--hm. Writes one about every once in a week. I don't know who
they're to, nuther, but I have my suspicions. You see, we've got a
cousin out West--out Pennsylvany way--and he ain't very well and
has got a turrible lot of money. I'm sort of surmisin' that
Laviny's writin' to him. We're about his only relations that's
left alive and--and so--"
"I see." The minister smiled.
"Yup. Laviny's a pretty good navigator, fur's keepin' an eye to
wind'ard is concerned. She was awful down on Phineas--that's his
name--'cause he married a Philadelphy woman, but he's a widower man
now, so I s'pose she feels better toward him. She's talkin' of
goin' up to Sandwich pretty soon."
"She IS? Alone?"
"So she says."
"To leave you here? Why! well, I'm surprised."
"Godfreys mighty! so be I. But she says she b'lieves she needs a
change and there's church conference up there, you know, and she
figgers that she ain't been to conference she don't know when. I
s'pose you'll go, won't you, Mr. Ellery?"
"Um--hm. I kind of wisht I was goin' myself. 'Twill be kind of
lonesome round home without her."
Considering that that variety of lonesomeness had been Abishai's
dream of paradise for years, Ellery thought his change of heart a
good joke and told Keziah of it when he returned to the parsonage.
The housekeeper was greatly surprised.
"Well! well! well!" she exclaimed. "Miracles'll never cease. I
don't wonder so much at Laviny wantin' to go to conference, but her
darin' to go and leave Kyan at home is past belief. Why, every
time she's had a cold her one fear was that she'd die and leave
'Bish behind to be kidnaped by some woman. Kyan himself was sick
once, and the story was that his sister set side of the bed night
and day and read him over and over again that chapter in the Bible
that says there's no marryin' or givin' in marriage in heaven. Dr.
Parker told me that he didn't believe 'Bish got ha'f the comfort
out of that passage that she did. And now she's goin' to Sandwich
and leave him. I can't think it's true."
But it was true, and Lavinia got herself elected a delegate and
went, in company with Captain Elkanah, Mrs. Mayo, and others, to
the conference. She was a faithful attendant at the meetings and
seemed to be having a very good time. She introduced the minister
to one Caleb Pratt, a resident of Sandwich, whom she said she had
known ever since she was a girl.
"Mr. Pratt's a cousin to Thankful Payne over to home," volunteered
Lavinia. "You know Thankful, Mr. Ellery."
Ellery did know Mrs. Payne and said so. Mr. Pratt, who was dressed
in a new suit of black which appeared to hurt him, imparted the
information that he'd heard tell consider'ble of Mr. Ellery.
"I enjoyed your sermon to-night fust--rate," he added solemnly.
"Did you, indeed? I'm glad."
"Yes, sir. You used words in that sermon that I never heard afore
in my life. 'Twas grand."
Lavinia confided to her pastor that Mr. Pratt made the best shoes
in Ostable County. He could fit ANY kind of feet, she declared,
and the minister ought to try him sometime. She added that he had
money in the bank.
The Reverend John rode home in the stage beside Miss Annabel, not
from choice, but because the young lady's father insisted upon it.
Miss Daniels gushed and enthused as she always did. As they drove
by the Corners the minister, who had been replying absently to
Annabel's questions, suddenly stopped short in the middle of a
sentence. His companion, leaning forward to look out of the
window, saw Grace Van Horne entering the store. For an instant
Annabel's face wore a very unpleasant expression. Then she smiled
and said, in her sweetest manner:
"Why, there's the tavern girl! I haven't seen her for sometime.
How old she looks! I suppose her uncle's death has aged her.
Well, she'll be married soon, just as soon as Cap'n Nat gets back.
They perfectly worship each other, those two. They say she writes
him the longest letters. Hannah Poundberry told me. Hannah's a
queer creature and common, but devoted to the Hammonds, Mr. Ellery.
However, you're not interested in Come-Outers, are you? Ha, ha!"
Ellery made some sort of an answer, but he could not have told what
it was. The sight of Grace had brought back all that he was trying
so hard to forget. Why couldn't one forget, when it was so
painful--and so useless--to remember?
Spring once more; then summer. And now people were again speaking
of Captain Nat Hammond. His ship was overdue, long overdue. Even
in those days, when there were no cables and the telegraph was
still something of a novelty, word of his arrival should have
reached Trumet months before this. But it had not come, and did
not. Before the summer was over, the wise heads of the retired
skippers were shaking dubiously. Something had happened to the Sea
Mist, something serious.
As the weeks and months went by without news of the missing vessel,
this belief became almost a certainty. At the Come-Outer chapel,
where Ezekiel Bassett now presided, prayers were offered for the
son of their former leader. These prayers were not as fervent as
they might have been, for Grace's nonattendance at meetings was
causing much comment and a good deal of resentment. She came
occasionally, but not often. "I always said she was stuck-up and
thought she was too good for the rest of us," remarked "Sukey B."
spitefully. "'And, between you and me, pa says he thinks Nat
Hammond would be one to uphold her in it. He wa'n't a bit
spirituous and never experienced religion. If anything HAS
happened to him, it's a punishment sent, that's what pa thinks."
Those were gloomy days at the parsonage. Keziah said little
concerning the topic of which all the village was talking, and John
Ellery forebore to mention it. The housekeeper was as faithful as
ever in the performance of her household duties, but her smile had
gone and she was worn and anxious. The minister longed to express
his sympathy, but Keziah had not mentioned Nat's name for months,
not since he, Ellery, gave her the message intrusted to him by the
captain before sailing. He would have liked to ask about Grace,
for he knew Mrs. Coffin visited the Hammond home occasionally, but
this, too, he hesitated to do. He heard from others that the girl
was bearing the suspense bravely, that she refused to give up hope,
and was winning the respect of all the thinking class in Trumet by
her courage and patience. Even the most bigoted of the Regulars,
Captain Daniels and his daughter excepted of course, had come to
speak highly of her. "She's a spunky girl," declared Captain Zeb,
with emphasis. "There's nothing of the milk-sop and cry-baby about
her. She's fit to be a sailor's wife, and I only hope Nat's alive
to come back and marry her. He was a durn good feller, too--savin'
your presence, Mr. Ellery--and if he was forty times a Come-Outer
I'd say the same thing. I'm 'fraid he's gone, though, poor chap.
As good a seaman as he was would have fetched port afore this if he
was atop of water. As for Gracie, she's a brick, and a lady, every
inch of her. My old girl went down t'other day to call on her and
that's the fust Come-Outer she's been to see sence there was any.
Why don't you go see her, too, Mr. Ellery? 'Twould be a welcome
change from Zeke Bassett and his tribe. Go ahead! it would be the
Almighty's own work and the society'd stand back of you, all them
that's wuth considerin', anyhow."
This was surprising advice from a member of the Regular and was
indicative of the changed feeling in the community, but the
minister, of course, could not take it. He had plunged headlong
into his church work, hoping that it and time would dull the pain
of his terrible shock and disappointment. It had been dulled
somewhat, but it was still there, and every mention of her name
One afternoon Keziah came into his study, where he was laboring
with his next Sunday sermon, and sat down in the rocking-chair.
She had been out and still wore her bonnet and shawl.
"John," she said, "I ask your pardon for disturbin' you. I know
Ellery laid down his pen. "Never too busy to talk with you, Aunt
Keziah," he observed. "What is it?"
"I wanted to ask if you knew Mrs. Prince was sick?"
"No. Is she? I'm awfully sorry. Nothing serious, I hope?"
"No, I guess not. Only she's got a cold and is kind of under the
weather. I thought p'r'aps you'd like to run up and see her. She
thinks the world and all of you, 'cause you was so good when she
was distressed about her son. Poor old thing! she's had a hard
time of it."
"I will go. I ought to go, of course. I'm glad you reminded me of
"Yes. I told her you hadn't meant to neglect her, but you'd been
busy fussin' with the fair and the like of that."
"That was all. I'll go right away. Have you been there to-day?"
"No. I just heard that she was ailin' from Didama Rogers. Didama
said she was all but dyin', so I knew she prob'ly had a little
cold, or somethin'. If she was really very bad, Di would have had
her buried by this time, so's to be sure her news was ahead of
anybody else's. I ain't been up there, but I met her t'other
"No; Mrs. Prince. She'd come down to see Grace."
"Yes. The old lady's been awful kind and sympathizin' since--since
this new trouble. It reminds her of the loss of her own boy, I
presume likely, and so she feels for Grace. John, what do they say
around town about--about HIM?"
The minister hesitated. Keziah did not wait for him to answer.
"I see," she said slowly. "Do they all feel that way?"
"Why, if you mean that they've all given up hope, I should hardly
say that. Captain Mayo and Captain Daniels were speaking of it in
my hearing the other day and they agreed that there was still a
"A pretty slim one, though, they cal'lated, didn't they?"
"Well, they were--were doubtful, of course. There was the
possibility that he had been wrecked somewhere and hadn't been
picked up. They cited several such cases. The South Pacific is
full of islands where vessels seldom touch, and he and his crew may
be on one of these."
"Yes. They might, but I'm afraid not. Ah, hum!"
She rose and was turning away. Ellery rose also and laid his hand
on her arm.
"Aunt Keziah," he said, "I'm very sorry. I respected Captain
Hammond, in spite of--of--in spite of everything. I've tried to
realize that he was not to blame. He was a good man and I haven't
forgotten that he saved my life that morning on the flats. And I'm
so sorry for YOU."
She did not look at him.
"John," she answered, with a sigh, "sometimes I think you'd better
get another housekeeper."
"What? Are you going to leave me? YOU?"
"Oh, 'twouldn't be because I wanted to. But it seems almost as if
there was a kind of fate hangin' over me and that," she smiled
faintly, "as if 'twas sort of catchin', as you might say.
Everybody I ever cared for has had somethin' happen to 'em. My
brother died; my--the man I married went to the dogs; then you and
Grace had to be miserable and I had to help make you so; I sent Nat
away and he blamed me and--"
"No, no. He didn't blame you. He sent you word that he didn't."
"Yes, but he did, all the same. He must have. I should if I'd
been in his place. And now he's dead, and won't ever understand--
on this earth, anyhow. I guess I'd better clear out and leave you
afore I spoil your life."
"Aunt Keziah, you're my anchor to windward, as they say down here.
If I lost you, goodness knows where I should drift. Don't you ever
talk of leaving me again."
"Thank you, John. I'm glad you want me to stay. I won't leave yet
awhile; never--unless I have to."
"Why should you ever have to?"
"Well, I don't know. Yes, I do know, too. John, I had another
letter t'other day."
"You did? From--from that man?"
"Yup, from--" For a moment it seemed as if she were about to
pronounce her husband's name, something she had never done in his
presence; but if she thought of it, she changed her mind.
"From him," she said. "He wanted money, of course; he always does.
But that wa'n't the worst. The letter was from England, and in it
he wrote that he was gettin' sick of knockin' around and guessed
he'd be for comin' to the States pretty soon and huntin' me up.
Said what was the use of havin' an able-bodied wife if she couldn't
give her husband a home."
"Yes, I know what he is, maybe full as well as you do. That's why
I spoke of leavin' you. If that man comes to Trumet, I'll go, sure
"No, no. Aunt Keziah, you must free yourself from him. No power
on earth can compel you to longer support such a--"
"None on earth, no. But it's my punishment and I've got to put up
with it. I married him with my eyes wide open, done it to spite
the--the other, as much as anything, and I must bear the burden.
But I tell you this, John: if he comes here, to this town, where
I've been respected and considered a decent woman, if he comes
here, I go--somewhere, anywhere that'll be out of the sight of them
that know me. And wherever I go he shan't be with me. THAT I
won't stand! I'd rather die, and I hope I do. Don't talk to me
any more now--don't! I can't stand it."
She hurried out of the room. Later, as the minister passed through
the dining room on his way to the door, she spoke to him again.
"John," she said, "I didn't say what I meant to when I broke in on
you just now. I meant to tell you about Grace. I knew you'd like
to know and wouldn't ask. She's bearin' up well, poor girl. She
thought the world of Nat, even though she might not have loved him
in the way that--"
"What's that? What are you saying, Aunt Keziah?"
"I mean--well, I mean that he'd always been like an own brother to
her and she cared a lot for him."
"But you said she didn't love him."
"Did I? That was a slip of the tongue, maybe. But she bears it
well and I don't think she gives up hope. I try not to, for her
sake, and I try not to show her how I feel."
She sewed vigorously for a few moments. Then she said:
"She's goin' away, Gracie is."
"Yup. She's goin' to stay with a relation of the Hammonds over in
Connecticut for a spell. I coaxed her into it. Stayin' here at
home with all this suspense and with Hannah Poundberry's tongue
droppin' lamentations like kernels out of a corn sheller, is enough
to kill a healthy batch of kittens with nine lives apiece. She
didn't want to go; felt that she must stay here and wait for news;
but I told her we'd get news to her as soon as it come, and she's
Ellery took his hat from the peg and opened the door. His foot was
on the step when Keziah spoke again.
"She--it don't mean nothin', John, except that she ain't so hard-
hearted as maybe you might think--she's asked me about you 'most
every time I've been there. She told me to take good care of you."
The door closed. Keziah put down her sewing and listened as the
minister's step sounded on the walk. She rose, went to the window
and looked after him. She was wondering if she had made a mistake
in mentioning Grace's name. She had meant to cheer him with the
thought that he was not entirely forgotten, that he was, at least,
pitied; but perhaps it would have been better to have remained
silent. Her gaze shifted and she looked out over the bay, blue and
white in the sun and wind. When she was a girl the sea had been
kind to her, it had brought her father home safe, and those
homecomings were her pleasantest memories. But she now hated it.
It was cruel and cold and wicked. It had taken the man she loved
and would have loved till she died, even though he could never have
been hers, and she had given him to another; it had taken him,
killed him cruelly, perhaps. And now it might be bringing to her
the one who was responsible for all her sorrow, the one she could
not think of without a shudder. She clung to the window sash and
"Lord! Lord!" she pleaded, "don't put any more on me now. I
couldn't stand it! I couldn't!"
Ellery, too, was thinking deeply as he walked up the main road on
his way to Mrs. Prince's. Keziah's words were repeating themselves
over and over in his brain. She had asked about him. She had not
forgotten him altogether. And what did the housekeeper mean by
saying that she had not loved Captain Hammond in the way that--
Not that it could make any difference. Nothing could give him back
his happiness. But what did it mean?
Mrs. Prince was very glad to see him. He found her in the big
armchair with the quilted back and the projecting "wings" at each
side of her head. She was wrapped in a "Rising Sun" quilt which
was a patchwork glory of red and crimson. A young girl, a
neighbor, who was apparently acting in the dual capacity of nurse
and housekeeper, admitted him to the old lady's presence.
"Well, well!" she exclaimed delightedly. "Then you ain't forgot me
altogether. I'm awful glad to see you. You'll excuse me for not
gettin' up; my back's got more pains in it than there is bones, a
good sight. Dr. Parker says it's nothin' serious, and all I had to
do was set still and take his medicine. I told him that either the
aches or the medicine made settin' still serious enough, and when
your only amusement is listenin' to Emeline Berry--she's the girl
that's takin' care of me--when your only fun is listenin' to
Emeline drop your best dishes in the kitchen sink, it's pretty nigh
tragic. There! there! don't mind an old woman, Mr. Ellery. Set
down and let's talk. It's a comfort to be able to say somethin'
besides 'Don't, Emeline!' and 'Be sure you pick up all the
Mrs. Prince's good spirits were of short duration. Her
conversation soon shifted to the loss of her son and she wept,
using the corner of the quilt to wipe away her tears. "Eddie" had
been her idol and, as she said, it was hard to believe what folks
kept tellin' her, that it was God's will, and therefore all for the
"That's so easy to say," she sobbed. "Maybe it is best for the
Lord, but how about me? I needed him more than they did up there,
or I think I did. O Mr. Ellery, I don't mean to be irreverent, but
WHY was it all for the best?"
Questions like this are hard to answer. The young minister tried,
but the answers were unsatisfactory, even to him.
"And there's Nat Hammond," continued Mrs. Prince. "A fine man--no
better anywhere, even though his father was a Come-Outer--just
goin' to be married and all, now they say he's drowned--why? Why
was that necessary?"
Ellery could not reply. The old lady did not wait for him to do
so. The mention of Captain Nat's name reminded her of other
"Poor Gracie!" she said. "It's turrible hard on her. I went down
to see her two or three times afore I was took with this backache.
She's an awful nice girl. And pretty as a pink, too. Don't you
think so? Hey? don't you?"
"Yes. I've been kind of expectin' she might get up to see me.
Hannah Poundberry told the Berrys that she said she was comin'. I
don't care about her bein' a Come-Outer. I ain't proud, Mr.
Ellery. And there's Come-Outers and COME-Outers. Proud! Lord 'a'
mercy! what has an old woman, next door to the poorhouse, got to be
proud over? Yes, she told Hannah she was comin', and the Berry
folks thought it might be to-day. So I've been watchin' for her.
What! you ain't agoin', Mr. Ellery?"
"I think I must, Mrs. Prince."
"Oh, don't! Do stay a spell longer. Gracie might come and I'd
like for you to meet her. She needs sympathy and comfort an awful
lot, and there's no tellin', you might convert her to bein' a
Reg'lar. Oh, yes, you might. You've got the most persuadin' way,
everybody says so. And you don't know her very well, do you? Land
sakes alive! talk about angels! I snum if she ain't comin' up the
road this blessed minute."
John Ellery had risen. Now he seized his hat and moved hastily
toward the door. Mrs. Prince called to him to remain, but he would
not. However, her good-bys delayed him for a minute, and before he
reached the yard gate Grace was opening it. They were face to face
for the first time since they had parted in the grove, so many
She was thinner and paler, he saw that. And dressed very quietly
in black. She looked at him, as he stood before her in the path,
and her cheeks flushed and her eyes fell. He stepped aside and
raised his hat.
She bowed gravely and murmured a "Good afternoon." Then she passed
on up the path toward the door. He watched her for an instant and
then stepped quickly after her. The black gown and the tired look
in her eyes touched him to the heart. He could not let her go
without a word.
She turned at the sound of his step behind her.
"Er--Miss Van Horne," he stammered, "I merely wanted to tell you
how deeply I--we all feel for you in your trouble. I--I--I am so
"Thank you," she said simply, and after a moment's hesitation.
"I mean it sincerely. I--I did not know Captain Hammond very well,
but I respected and liked him the first time we met. I shall hope
that--that--it is not so serious as they fear."
"Thank you," she said again. "We are all hoping."
"Yes. I--I--" It was dreadfully hard to get words together. "I
have heard so much of the captain from--"
"From Aunt Keziah? Yes, she was Nat's warmest friend."
"I know. Er--Mrs. Coffin tells me you are going away. I hope you
may hear good news and soon. I shall think of you--of him-- I
want you to understand that I shall."
The door opened and Emeline Berry appeared on the threshold.
"Come right in, Grace," she called. "Mrs. Prince wants you to.
She's ahollerin' for you to hurry up."
"Good-by," said the minister.
"Good-by. Thank you again. It was very kind of you to say this."
"No, no. I mean it."
"I know; that was why it was so kind. Good-by."
She held out her hand and he took it. He knew that his was
trembling, but so, too, was hers. The hands fell apart. Grace
entered the house and John Ellery went out at the gate.
That night Keziah, in the sitting room, trying to read, but finding
it hard to keep her mind on the book, heard her parson pacing back
and forth over the straw-matted floor of his chamber. She looked
at the clock; it was nearly twelve. She shut the book and sighed.
Her well-meant words of consolation had been a mistake, after all.
She should not have spoken Grace Van Horne's name.
IN WHICH THE MINISTER BOARDS THE SAN JOSE
"Hey, Mr. Ellery!"
It was Captain Zeb Mayo who was calling. The captain sat in his
antique chaise, drawn by the antique white horse, and was hailing
the parsonage through a speaking trumpet formed by holding both his
big hands before his mouth. The reins he had tucked between the
edge of the dashboard and the whip socket. If he had thrown them
on the ground he would still have been perfectly safe, with that
"Mr. Ellery, ahoy!" roared Captain Zeb through his hands.
The window of Zoeth Peters's house, next door to the Regular
church, was thrown up and Mrs. Peters's head, bound with a blue-
and-white handkerchief in lieu of a sweeping cap, was thrust forth
into the crisp March air.
"What is it, Cap'n Mayo?" screamed Mrs. Peters. "Hey?"
"Hey?" repeated Captain Zeb, peering round the chaise curtain.
"It's me. Is somebody dead?"
"Who's me? Oh! No, Hettie, nobody's dead, though I'm likely to
bust a blood vessel if I keep on yellin' much longer. Is the
parson to home?"
"Oh, heavens alive! I say is-- Ha, there you be, Mr. Ellery.
The minister and Mrs. Coffin, the former with a napkin in his hand,
had emerged from the side door of the parsonage and now came
hurrying down to the gate.
"Land of Goshen!" exclaimed the captain, "you don't mean to tell me
you ain't done breakfast yet, and it after seven o'clock. Why,
we're thinkin' about dinner up to our house."
Keziah answered. "Yes," she said, "I shouldn't wonder. Your wife
tells me, Zeb, that the only time you ain't thinkin' about dinner
is when you think of breakfast or supper. We ain't so hungry here
that we get up to eat in the middle of the night. What's the
matter? Hettie Peters is hollerin' at you; did you know it?"
"Did I know it? Tut! tut! tut! I'd known it if I was a mile away,
'less I was paralyzed in my ears. Let her holler; 'twill do her
good and keep her in practice for Come-Outer meetin'. Why, Mr.
Ellery, I tell you: Em'lous Sparrow, the fish peddler, stepped up
to our house a few minutes ago. He's just come down from the
shanties over on the shore by the light--where the wreck was, you
know--and he says there's a 'morphrodite brig anchored three or
four mile off and she's flyin' colors ha'f mast and union down.
They're gettin' a boat's crew together to go off to her and see
what's the row. I'm goin' to drive over and I thought maybe you'd
like to go along. I told the old lady--my wife, I mean--that I
thought of pickin' you up and she said 'twas a good idee. Said my
likin' to cruise with a parson in my old age was either a sign that
I was hopeful or fearful, she didn't know which; and either way it
ought to be encouraged. He, he, he! What do you say, Mr. Ellery?
Want to go?"
The minister hesitated. "I'd like to," he said. "I'd like to very
much. But I ought to work on my sermon this morning."
Keziah cut in here. "Cat's foot!" she sniffed. "Let your sermon
go for this once, do. If it ain't long enough as it is, you can
begin again when you've got to the end and preach it over again.
Didama Rogers said, last circle day, that she could set still and
hear you preach right over n' over. I'd give her a chance,
'specially if it did keep her still. Keepin' Didama still is good
Christian work, ain't it, Zeb?"
Captain Mayo slapped his knee. "He, he, he!" he chuckled.
"Cal'late you're right, Keziah."
"Indeed, I am. I believe it would be Christianity and I KNOW
'twould be work. There! there! run in and get your coat and hat,
Mr. Ellery. I'll step across and ease Hettie's mind and--and
She went across the road to impart the news of the vessel in
distress to the curious Mrs. Peters. A moment later the minister,
having donned his hat and coat, ran down the walk and climbed into
the chaise beside Captain Zeb. The white horse, stimulated into a
creaky jog trot by repeated slappings of the reins and roars to
"Get under way!" and "Cast off!" moved along the sandy lane.
During the drive the captain and his passenger discussed various
topics of local interest, among them Captain Nat Hammond and the
manner in which he might have lost his ship and his life. It was
now taken for granted, in Trumet and elsewhere, that Nat was dead
and would never be heard from again. The owners had given up, so
Captain Zeb said, and went on to enumerate the various accidents
which might have happened--typhoons, waterspouts, fires, and even
attacks by Malay pirates--though, added the captain, "Gen'rally
speakin', I'd ruther not bet on any pirate gettin' away with Nat
Hammond's ship, if the skipper was alive and healthy. Then there's
mutiny and fevers and collisions, and land knows what all. And,
speakin' of trouble, what do you cal'late ails that craft we're
goin' to look at now?"
They found a group on the beach discussing that very question. A
few fishermen, one or two lobstermen and wreckers, and the
lightkeeper were gathered on the knoll by the lighthouse. They had
a spyglass, and a good-sized dory was ready for launching.
"Where is she, Noah?" asked Captain Zeb of the lightkeeper. "That
her off back of the spar buoy? Let me have a squint through that
glass; my eyes ain't what they used to be, when I could see a whale
spout two miles t'other side of the sky line and tell how many
barrels of ile he'd try out, fust look. Takes practice to keep
your eyesight so's you can see round a curve like that," he added,
winking at Ellery.
"She's a brigantine, Zeb," observed the keeper, handing up the
spyglass. "And flyin' the British colors. Look's if she might be
one of them salt boats from Turk's Islands. But what she's doin'
out there, anchored, with canvas lowered and showin' distress
signals in fair weather like this, is more'n any of us can make
out. She wa'n't there last evenin', though, and she is there now."
"She ain't the only funny thing along shore this mornin', nuther,"
announced Theophilus Black, one of the fishermen. "Charlie Burgess
just come down along and he says there's a ship's longboat hauled
up on the beach, 'bout a mile 'n a half t'other side the mouth of
the herrin' crick yonder. Oars in her and all. And she ain't no
boat that b'longs round here, is she, Charlie?"
"No, Thoph, she ain't," was the reply. "Make anything out of her,
Captain Zeb, who had been inspecting the anchored vessel through
the spyglass, lowered the latter and seemed puzzled. "Not much,"
he answered. "Blessed if she don't look abandoned to me. Can't
see a sign of life aboard her."
"We couldn't neither," said Thoph. "We was just cal'latin' to go
off to her when Charlie come and told us about the longboat. I
guess likely we can go now; it's pretty nigh smooth as a pond.
You'll take an oar, won't you, Noah?"
"I can't leave the light very well. My wife went over to the
village last night. You and Charlie and Bill go. Want to go, too,
"No, I'll stay here, I guess. The old lady made me promise to keep
my feet dry afore I left the house."
"You want to go, Mr. Ellery? Lots of room."
The minister was tempted. The sea always had a fascination for him
and the mystery of the strange ship was appealing.
"Sure I won't be in the way?"
"No, no! 'course you won't," said Burgess. "Come right along. You
set in the bow, if you don't mind gettin' sprinkled once in a
while. I'll steer and Thoph and Bill'll row. That'll be enough
for one dory. If we need more, we'll signal. Heave ahead."
The surf, though low for that season of the year, looked dangerous
to Ellery, but his companions launched the dory with the ease which
comes of experience. Burgess took the steering oar and Thoph and
"Bill," the latter a lobsterman from Wellmouth Neck, bent their
broad backs for the long pull. The statement concerning the
pondlike smoothness of the sea was something of an exaggeration.
The dory climbed wave after wave, long and green and oily, at the
top of each she poised, tipped and slid down the slope. The
minister, curled up in the bow on a rather uncomfortable cushion of
anchor and roding, caught glimpses of the receding shore over the
crests behind. One minute he looked down into the face of Burgess,
holding the steering oar in place, the next the stern was high
above him and he felt that he was reclining on the back of his
neck. But always the shoulders of the rowers moved steadily in the
short, deep strokes of the rough water oarsman, and the beach, with
the white light and red-roofed house of the keeper, the group
beside it, and Captain Zeb's horse and chaise, grew smaller and
"Humph!" grunted Charlie.
"What's the matter?" asked Thoph.
The steersman, who was staring hard in the direction they were
"Humph!" he grunted again. "I swan to man, fellers, I believe she
"Rubbish!" panted Bill, twisting his neck to look over his
shoulder. "'Course she ain't! Who'd abandon a craft such
weather's this, and Province-town harbor only three hours' run or
"When it comes to that," commented Burgess, "why should they anchor
off here, 'stead of takin' her in by the inlet? If there's anybody
aboard they ain't showed themselves yet. She might have been
leakin', but she don't look it. Sets up out of water pretty well.
Well, we'll know in a few minutes. Hit her up, boys!"
The rowers "hit her up" and the dory moved faster. Then Burgess,
putting his hand to his mouth, hailed.
"Ship ahoy!" he roared. "Ahoy!"
"Ahoy the brig!" bellowed Burgess. "What's the matter aboard
there? All hands asleep?"
Still no answer. Thoph and Bill pulled more slowly now. Burgess
nodded to them.
"Stand by!" he ordered. "Easy! Way enough! Let her run."
The dory slackened speed, turned in obedience to the steering oar,
and slid under the forequarter of the anchored vessel. Ellery,
looking up, saw her name in battered gilt letters above his head--
the San Jose.
"Stand by, Thoph!" shouted Charlie. "S'pose you can jump and grab
her forechains? Hold her steady, Bill. Now, Thoph! That's the
Thoph had jumped, seized the chains, and was scrambling aboard. A
moment later he appeared at the rail amidships, a rope in his hand.
The dory was brought alongside and made fast; then one after the
other the men in the boat climbed to the brig's deck.
"Ahoy!" yelled Burgess. "All hands on deck! tumble up, you
lubbers! Humph! She is abandoned, sure and sartin."
"Yup," assented Bill. "Her boats are gone. See? Guess that
explains the longboat on the beach, Charlie."
"Cal'late it does; but it don't explain why they left her. She
ain't leakin' none to speak of, that's sure. Rides's light's a
feather. Christmas! look at them decks; dirty hogs, whoever they
The decks were dirty, and the sails, sloppily furled, were dirty
likewise. The brig, as she rolled and jerked at her anchor rope,
was dirty--and unkempt from stem to stern. To Ellery's mind she
made a lonesome picture, even under the clear, winter sky and
Thoph led the way aft. The cabin companion door was open and they
"Phew!" sniffed Burgess. "She ain't no cologne bottle, is she?
Well, come on below and let's see what'll we see."
The cabin was a "mess," as Bill expressed it. The floor was
covered with scattered heaps of riff-raff, oilskins, coats, empty
bottles, and papers. On the table a box stood, its hinged lid
"Medicine chest," said Burgess, examining it. "And rum bottles
aplenty. Somebody's been sick, I shouldn't wonder."
The minister opened the door of one of the little staterooms. The
light which shone through the dirty and tightly closed "bull's-eye"
window showed a tumbled bunk, the blankets soiled and streaked.
The smell was stifling.
"Say, fellers," whispered Thoph, "I don't like this much myself.
I'm for gettin' on deck where the air's better. Somethin's
happened aboard this craft, somethin' serious."
Charlie and Bill nodded an emphatic affirmative.
"Hadn't we better look about a little more?" asked Ellery.
"There's another stateroom there."
He opened the door of it as he spoke. It was, if possible, in a
worse condition than the first. And the odor was even more
"Skipper's room," observed Burgess, peeping in. "And that bunk
ain't been slept in for weeks. See the mildew on them clothes.
Phew! I'm fair sick to my stomach. Come out of this."
On deck, in the sunlight, they held another consultation.
"Queerest business ever I see," observed Charlie. "I never--"
"I see somethin' like it once," interrupted Bill. "Down in the
Gulf 'twas. I was on the old Fishhawk. Eben Salters's dad from
over to Bayport skippered her. We picked up a West Injy schooner,
derelict, abandoned same as this one, but not anchored, of course.
Yeller jack was the trouble aboard her and-- Where you bound,
"Goin' to take a squint at the fo'castle," replied Theophilus,
moving forward. The minister followed him.
The fo'castle hatchway was black and grim. Ellery knelt and peered
down. Here there was practically no light at all and the air was
fouler than that in the cabin.
"See anything, Mr. Ellery?" asked Thoph, looking over his shoulder.
"No, I don't see anything. But I thought--"
He seemed to be listening.
"What did you think?"
"Hold on! you ain't goin' down there, be you? I wouldn't. No
tellin' what you might find. Well, all right. I ain't curious.
I'll stay up here and you can report."
He stepped over and leaned against the rail. Bill came across the
deck and joined him.
"Where's Charlie?" asked Thoph.
"Gone back to the cabin," was the answer. "Thought likely he might
find some of her papers or somethin' to put us on the track. I
told him to heave ahead; I didn't want no part of it. Too much
like that yeller-jack schooner to suit me. What's become of the
Thoph pointed to the open hatch.
"Down yonder, explorin' the fo'castle," he replied. "He can have
the job, for all me. Phew! Say, Bill, what IS this we've struck,
Ellery descended the almost perpendicular ladder gingerly, holding
on with both hands. At its foot he stopped and tried to accustom
his eyes to the darkness.
A room perhaps ten feet long, so much he could make out. The floor
strewn, like that of the cabin, with heaps of clothing and odds and
ends. More shapes of clothes hanging up and swaying with the roll
of the brig. A little window high up at the end, black with dirt.
And cavities, bunks in rows, along the walls. A horrible hole.
He took a step toward the center of the room, bending his head to
avoid hitting the fo'castle lantern. Then in one of the bunks
something stirred, something alive. He started violently,
controlled himself with an effort, and stumbled toward the sound.
"What is it?" he whispered. "Who is it? Is anyone there?"
A groan answered him. Then a voice, weak and quavering, said:
"Gimme a drink! Gimme a drink! Can't none of you God-forsaken
devils give me a drink?"
He stooped over the bunk. A man was lying in it, crumpled into a
dreadful heap. He stooped lower, looked, and saw the man's face.
There was a shout from the deck, or, rather, a yell. Then more
yells and the sound of running feet.
"Mr. Ellery!" screamed Burgess, at the hatchway. "Mr. Ellery, for
the Almighty's sake, come up here! Come out of that this minute.
The minister knew what was coming, was sure of it as he stepped to
the foot of the ladder, had known it the instant he saw that face.
"Mr. Ellery!" shrieked Burgess. "Mr. Ellery, are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here," answered the minister, slowly. He was fighting
with all his might to keep his nerves under control. His impulse
was to leap up those steps, rush across that deck, spring into the
dory and row, anywhere to get away from the horror of that
"Come up!" called Burgess. "Hurry! It's the smallpox! The darned
hooker's rotten with it. For God sakes, come quick!"
He ran to the rail, yelling order to Bill and Thoph, who were
frantically busy with the dory. Ellery began to climb the ladder.
His head emerged into the clean, sweet air blowing across the deck.
He drew a breath to the very bottom of his lungs.
Then from behind and below him came the voice again.
"Gimme a drink!" it wailed. "Gimme a drink of water. Ain't one of
you cussed swabs got decency enough to fetch me a drink? I'm dyin'
for a drink, I tell you. I'm dyin'!"
The minister stood still, his feet on the ladder. The three men by
the rail were working like mad, their faces livid under the sunburn
and their hands trembling. They pushed each other about and swore.
They were not cowards, either. Ellery knew them well enough to
know that. Burgess had, that very winter, pulled a skiff through
broken ice in the face of a wicked no'theaster to rescue an old
neighbor whose dory had been capsized in the bay while he was
hauling lobster pots. But now Burgess was as scared as the rest.
Thoph and Bill sprang over the rail into the boat. Burgess turned
and beckoned to Ellery.
"Come on!" he called. "What are you waitin' for?"
The minister remained where he was.
"Are you sure--" he faltered.
"Sure! Blast it all! I found the log. It ain't been kept for a
fortni't, but there's enough. It's smallpox, I tell you. Two men
died of it three weeks ago. The skipper died right afterwards.
The mate-- No wonder them that was left run away as soon as they
sighted land. Come on! Do you want to die, too?"
From the poison pit at the foot of the ladder the man in the bunk
called once more.
"Water!" he screeched. "Water! Are you goin' to leave me, you d--n
"For Heaven sakes!" cried Burgess, clutching the rail, "what's
Ellery answered him. "It's one of them," he said, and his voice
sounded odd in his own ears. "It's one of the crew."
"One of the-- Down THERE? Has he--"
"Yes, he has."
"Help! help!" screamed the voice shrilly. "Are you goin' to leave
me to die all alone? He-elp!"
The minister turned. "Hush!" he called, in answer to the voice,
"hush! I'll bring you water in a minute. Burgess," he added, "you
and the rest go ashore. I shall stay."
"You'll stay? You'll STAY? With THAT? You're crazy as a loon.
Don't be a fool, man! Come on! We'll send the doctor and somebody
else--some one that's had it, maybe, or ain't afraid. I am and I'm
goin'. Don't be a fool."
Thoph, from the dory, shouted to know what was the matter. Ellery
climbed the ladder to the deck and walked over to the rail. As he
approached, Burgess fell back a few feet.
"Thoph," said the minister, addressing the pair in the dory, "there
is a sick man down in the forecastle. He has been alone there for
hours, I suppose, certainly since his shipmates ran away. If he is
left longer without help,, he will surely die. Some one must stay
with him. You and the rest row ashore and get the doctor and
whoever else you can. I'll stay here till they come."
Thoph and his companions set up a storm of protest. It was
foolish, it was crazy, the man would die anyhow, and so on. They
begged the minister to come with them. But he was firm.
"Don't stop to argue," he urged. "Hurry and get the doctor."
"Come on, Charlie," ordered Bill. "No use talkin' to him, he's
set. Come on! I won't stay alongside this craft another minute
for nobody. If you be comin', come."
Burgess, still protesting, clambered over the rail. The dory swung
clear of the brig. The rowers settled themselves for the stroke.
"Better change your mind, Mr. Ellery," pleaded Charlie. "I hate to
leave you this way. It seems mean, but I'm a married man with
children, like the rest of us here, and I can't take no risks.
Better come, too. No? Well, we'll send help quick as the Lord'll
let us. By the Almighty!" he added, in a sudden burst, "you've got
more spunk than I have--yes, or anybody I ever come across. I'll
say that for you, if you are a parson. Give way, fellers."
The oars dipped, bent, and the dory moved off. The sound of the
creaking thole pins shot a chill through Ellery's veins. His knees
shook, and involuntarily a cry for them to come back rose to his
lips. But he choked it down and waved his hand in farewell. Then,
not trusting himself to look longer at the receding boat, he turned
on his heel and walked toward the forecastle.
The water butts stood amidships, not far from the open door of the
galley. Entering the latter he found an empty saucepan. This he
filled from the cask, and then, with it in his hand, turned toward
the black hatchway. Here was the greatest test of his courage. To
descend that ladder, approach that bunk, and touch the terrible
creature in it, these were the tasks he had set himself to do, but
Vaccination in those days was by no means the universal custom that
it now is. And smallpox, even now, is a disease the name of which
strikes panic to a community. The minister had been vaccinated
when he was a child, but that was--so it seemed to him--a very long
time ago. And that forecastle was so saturated with the plague
that to enter it meant almost certain infection. He had stayed
aboard the brig because the pitiful call for help had made leaving
a cowardly impossibility. Now, face to face, and in cold blood,
with the alternative, it seemed neither so cowardly or impossible.
The man would die anyhow, so Thoph had said; was there any good
reason why he should risk dying, too, and dying in that way?
He thought of a great many things and of many people as he stood by
the hatchway, waiting; among others, he thought of his housekeeper,
Keziah Coffin. And, somehow, the thought of her, of her pluck, and
her self-sacrifice, were the very inspirations he needed. "It's
the duty that's been laid on me," Keziah had said, "and it's a hard
one, but I don't run away from it." He began to descend the
The sick man was raving in delirium when he reached him, but the
sound of the water lapping the sides of the saucepan brought him to
himself. He seized Ellery by the arm and drank and drank. When at
last he desisted, the pan was half empty.
The minister laid him gently back in the bunk and stepped to the
foot of the ladder for breath. This made him think of the
necessity for air in the place and he remembered the little window.
It was tightly closed and rusted fast. He went up to the deck,
found a marlin spike, and, returning, broke the glass. A sharp,
cold draught swept through the forecastle, stirring the garments
hanging on the nails.
An hour later, two dories bumped against the side of the San Jose.
Men, talking in low tones, climbed over the rail. Burgess was one
of them; ashamed of his panic, he had returned to assist the others
in bringing the brigantine into a safer anchorage by the inlet.
Dr. Parker, very grave but businesslike, reached the deck among the
"Mr. Ellery," he shouted, "where are you?"
The minister's head and shoulders appeared at the forecastle
companion. "Here I am, doctor," he said. "Will you come down?"
The doctor made no answer in words, but he hurried briskly across
the deck. One man, Ebenezer Capen, an old fisherman and ex-whaler
from East Trumet, started to follow him, but he was the only one.
The others waited, with scared faces, by the rail.
"Get her under way and inshore as soon as you can," ordered Dr.
Parker. "Ebenezer, you can help. If I need you below, I'll call."
The minister backed down the ladder and the doctor followed him.
Parker bent over the bunk for a few moments in silence.
"He's pretty bad," he muttered. "Mighty little chance. Heavens,
what a den! Who broke that window?"
"I did," replied Ellery. "The air down here was dreadful."
The doctor nodded approvingly. "I guess so," he said. "It's bad
enough now. We've got to get this poor fellow out of here as soon
as we can or he'll die before to-morrow. Mr. Ellery," he added
sharply, "what made you do this? Don't you realize the risk you've
"Some one had to do it. You are running the same risk."
"Not just the same, and, besides, it's my business. Why didn't you
let some one else, some one we could spare-- Humph! Confound it,
man! didn't you know any better? Weren't you afraid?"
His tone rasped Ellery's shaken nerves.
"Of course I was," he snapped irritably. "I'm not an idiot."
"Humph! Well, all right; I beg your pardon. But you oughtn't to
have done it. Now you'll have to be quarantined. And who in
thunder I can get to stay with me in this case is more than I know.
Just say smallpox to this town and it goes to pieces like a smashed
egg. Old Eb Capen will help, for he's had it, but it needs more
"Where are you going to take--him?" pointing to the moaning
occupant of the bunk.
"To one of the empty fish shanties on the beach. There are beds
there, such as they are, and the place is secluded. We can burn it
down when the fuss is over."
"Then why can't I stay? I shall have to be quarantined, I know
that. Let me be the other nurse. Why should anyone else run the
risk? I HAVE run it. I'll stay."
Dr. Parker looked at him. "Well!" he exclaimed. "Well! I must
say, young man, that you've got-- Humph! All right, Mr. Ellery;
I'm much obliged."
IN WHICH EBENEZER CAPEN IS SURPRISED
Before sunset that afternoon the San Jose was anchored behind the
point by the inlet. The fishing boats changed moorings and moved
farther up, for not a single one of their owners would trust
himself within a hundred yards of the stricken brigantine. As soon
as the anchors were dropped, the volunteer crew was over side and
away, each of its members to receive a scolding from his family for
taking such a risk and to have his garments sulphur-smoked or
buried. Charlie Burgess, whose wife was something of a Tartar,
observed ruefully that he "didn't take no comfort 'round home
nowadays; between the smell of brimstone and the jawin's 'twas the
hereafter ahead of time."
The largest of the beach shanties, one which stood by itself a
quarter of a mile from the light, was hurriedly prepared for use as
a pesthouse and the sick sailor was carried there on an improvised
stretcher. Dr. Parker and Ellery lifted him from his berth and,
assisted by old Ebenezer Capen, got him up to the deck and lowered
him into the dory. Ebenezer rowed the trio to the beach and the
rest of the journey was comparatively easy.
The shanty had three rooms, one of which was given up to the
patient, one used as a living room, and, in the third, Capen and
the minister were to sleep. Mattresses were procured, kind-hearted
and sympathizing townspeople donated cast-off tables and chairs,
and the building was made as comfortable as it could be, under the
circumstances. Sign boards, warning strangers to keep away, were
erected, and in addition to them, the Trumet selectmen ordered
ropes stretched across the lane on both sides of the shanty. But
ropes and signs were superfluous. Trumet in general was in a blue
funk and had no desire to approach within a mile of the locality.
Even the driver of the grocery cart, when he left the day's supply
of provisions, pushed the packages under the ropes, yelled a
hurried "Here you be!" and, whipping up his horse, departed at a
The village sat up nights to discuss the affair and every day
brought a new sensation. The survivors of the San Jose's crew, a
wretched, panic-stricken quartette of mulattos and Portuguese, were
apprehended on the outskirts of Denboro, the town below Trumet on
the bay side, and were promptly sequestered and fumigated, pending
shipment to the hospital at Boston. Their story was short but
grewsome. The brigantine was not a Turks Islands boat, but a
coaster from Jamaica. She had sailed with a small cargo for
Savannah. Two days out and the smallpox made its appearance on
board. The sufferer, a negro foremast hand, died. Then another
sailor was seized and also died. The skipper, who was the owner,
was the next victim, and the vessel was in a state of
demoralization which the mate, an Englishman named Bradford, could
not overcome. Then followed days and nights of calm and terrible
heat, of pestilence and all but mutiny. The mate himself died.
There was no one left who understood navigation. At last came a
southeast gale and the San Jose drove before it. Fair weather
found her abreast the Cape. The survivors ran her in after dark,
anchored, and reached shore in the longboat. The sick man whom
they had left in the forecastle was a new hand who had shipped at
Kingston. His name was Murphy, they believed. They had left him
because he was sure to die, like the others, and, besides, they
knew some one would see the distress signals and investigate. That
was all, yes. Santa Maria! was it not enough?
This tale was a delicious tidbit for Didama and the "daily
advertisers," but, after all, it was a mere side dish compared to
Mr. Ellery's astonishing behavior. That he, the minister of the
Regular church, should risk his life, risk dying of the smallpox,
to help a stranger and a common sailor, was incomprehensible.
Didama, at least, could not understand it, and said so. "My soul
and body!" she exclaimed, with uplifted hands. "I wouldn't go nigh
my own grandfather if he had the smallpox, let alone settin' up
with a strange critter that I didn't know from Adam's cat. And a
minister doin' it! He ought to consider the congregation, if he
done nothin' else. Ain't we more important than a common water rat
that, even when he's dyin', swears, so I hear tell, like a ship's
poll parrot? I never heard of such foolishness. It beats ME!"
It "beat" a good many who, like the Widow Rogers, could not
understand self-sacrifice. But there were more, and they the
majority of Trumet's intelligent people, who understood and
appreciated. Dr. Parker, a man with a reputation for dangerously
liberal views concerning religious matters and an infrequent
attendant at church, was enthusiastic and prodigal of praise.
"By George!" vowed the doctor. "That's MY kind of Christianity.
That's the kind of parson I can tie to. I'm for John Ellery after
this, first, last, and all the time. And if he don't get the
smallpox and die, and if he does live to preach in the Regular
church, you'll see me in one of the front pews every Sunday.
That's what I think of him. Everybody else ran away and I don't
blame 'em much. But he stayed. Yes, sir, by George! he stayed.
'Somebody had to do it,' says he. I take off my hat to that young
Captain Zeb Mayo went about cheering for his parson. Mrs. Mayo
cooked delicacies to be pushed under the ropes for the minister's
consumption. The parish committee, at a special session, voted an
increase of salary and ordered a weekly service of prayer for the
safe delivery of their young leader from danger. Even Captain
Elkanah did not try to oppose the general opinion; "although I
cannot but feel," he said, "that Mr. Ellery's course was rash and
that he should have considered us and our interest in his welfare
"Dum it all!" roared Captain Zeb, jumping to his feet and
interrupting, "he didn't consider himself, did he? and ain't he as
important TO himself as you, Elkanah Daniels, or anybody else in
this meetin' house? Bah! don't let's have no more talk like that
or I'll say somethin' that won't be fit to put in the minutes."
Even at Come-Outers' meeting, when Ezekiel Bassett hinted at a
"just punishment fallin' on the head of the leader of the
Pharisees," Thoph Black rose and defended Ellery.
Keziah Coffin was, perhaps, the one person most disturbed by her
parson's heroism. She would have gone to the shanty immediately
had not Dr. Parker prevented. Even as it was, she did go as far as
the ropes, but there she was warded off by Ebenezer until Ellery
came running out and bade her come no nearer.
"But you shan't stay here, Mr. Ellery," vowed Keziah. "Or, if you
do, I'll stay, too. I ain't afraid of smallpox."
"I am," confessed the minister, "and I'm not going to let anyone I
care for expose themselves to it unnecessarily. If you try to come
in here I shall"--he smiled--"well, Capen and I will put you off
the premises by force. There!"
Keziah smiled, too, in spite of herself. "Maybe you'd have your
hands full," she said. "O John, what in the world made you do this
thing? It's dreadful. I shan't sleep a wink, thinkin' of you. I
just must come here and help."
"No, you mustn't. You can come as far as the--the dead line once
in a while, if Captain Mayo will drive you over, but that's all.
I'm all right. Don't worry about me. I'm feeling tiptop and I'm
not going to be sick. Now go home and make me some of that--some
of those puddings of yours. We can use them to advantage, can't
"Bet yer!" replied Ebenezer with enthusiasm. Keziah, after more
expostulation, went back to the parsonage, where the puddings were
made and seasoned with tears and fervent prayers. She wrote to
Grace and told her the news of the San Jose, but she said nothing
of the minister's part in it. "Poor thing!" sighed Keziah, "she's
bearin' enough already. Her back ain't as strong as mine, maybe,
and mine's most crackin'. Well, let it crack for good and all; I
don't know but that's the easiest way out."
The sick sailor grew no better. Days and nights passed and he
raved and moaned or lay in a stupor. Ebenezer acted as day nurse
while Ellery slept, and, at night, the minister, being younger,
went on watch. The doctor came frequently, but said there was no
hope. A question of time only, and a short time, he said.
Capen occupied his mind with speculations concerning the patient.
"Do you know, parson," he said, "seem's if I'd seen the feller
somewheres afore. 'Course I never have, but when I used to go
whalin' v'yages I cruised from one end of creation to t'other,
pretty nigh, and I MIGHT have met him. However, his own folks
wouldn't know him now, would they? so I cal'late I'm just gettin'
foolish in my old age. Said his name's Murphy, them ha'f-breeds
did, didn't they? I know better'n that."
"How do you know?" asked Ellery, idly listening.
"'Cause when he's floppin' round on the bed, out of his head, he
sings out all kinds of stuff. A good deal of it's plain cussin',
but there's times when he talks respectable and once I heard him
say 'darn' and another time 'I cal'late.' Now no Irishman says
THAT. That's Yankee, that is."
"Well, he ought to know his own name."
"Prob'ly he does--or used to--but 'most likely he don't want nobody
else to know it. That's why he said 'twas Murphy and, bein' as he
DID say it, I know 'tain't it. See my argument, don't you, Mr.
"Yes, I guess so."
"Um--hm! Why, land sakes, names don't mean nothin' with seafarin'
men. I've seen the time when I had more names-- Humph! Looks
kind of squally off to the east'ard, don't it?"
That night the sick man was much worse. His ravings were
incessant. The minister, sitting in his chair in the living room,
by the cook stove, could hear the steady stream of shouts, oaths,
and muttered fragments of dialogue with imaginary persons.
Sympathy for the sufferer he felt, of course, and yet he, as well
as Dr. Parker and old Capen, had heard enough to realize that the
world would be none the worse for losing this particular specimen
of humanity. The fellow had undoubtedly lived a hard life, among
the roughest of companions afloat and ashore. Even Ebenezer, who
by his own confession, was far from being a saint, exclaimed
disgustedly at the close of a day's watching by the sick bed:
"Phew! I feel's if I'd been visiting state's prison. Let me set
out doors a spell and listen to the surf. It's clean, anyhow, and
that critter's talk makes me want to give my brains a bath."
The wooden clock, loaned by Mrs. Parker, the doctor's wife, ticked
steadily, although a half hour slow. Ellery, glancing at it to see
if the time had come for giving medicine, suddenly noticed how loud
its ticking sounded. Wondering at this, he was aware there was no
other sound in the house. He rose and looked in at the door of the
adjoining room. The patient had ceased to rave and was lying quiet
on the bed.
The minister tiptoed over to look at him. And, as he did so, the
man opened his eyes.
"Halloo!" he said faintly. "Who are you?"
Ellery, startled, made no answer.
"Who are you?" demanded the man again. Then, with an oath, he
repeated the question, adding: "What place is this? This ain't the
fo'castle. Where am I?"
"You're ashore. You've been sick. Don't try to move."
"Sick? Humph! Sick? 'Course I been sick. Don't I know it? The
d--n cowards run off and left me; blast their eyes! I'll fix 'em
for it one of these days, you hear--"
"Hush up yourself. Where am I?"
"You're ashore. On Cape Cod. At Trumet."
He was struggling to raise himself on his elbow. Ellery was
obliged to use force to hold him down.
"Hush! hush!" pleaded the minister, "you mustn't try to--"
"Trumet! I ain't. You're lyin'. Trumet! Good God! Who brought
me here? Did she-- Is she--"
He struggled again. Then his strength and his reason left him
simultaneously and the delirium returned. He began to shout a
name, a name that caused Ellery to stand upright and step back from
the bed, scarcely believing his ears.
All the rest of that night the man on the bed raved and muttered,
but of people and places and happenings which he had not mentioned
before. And the minister, listening intently to every word, caught
himself wondering if he also was not losing his mind.
When the morning came, Ebenezer Capen was awakened by a shake to
find John Ellery standing over him.
"Capen," whispered the minister, "Capen, get up. I must talk with
Ebenezer was indignant.
"Judas priest!" he exclaimed; "why don't you scare a feller to
death, comin' and yankin' him out of bed by the back hair?" Then,
being more wide awake, he added: "What's the row? Worse, is he?
"No. But I've got to talk with you. You used to be a whaler, I
know. Were you acquainted in New Bedford?"
"Sartin. Was a time when I could have located every stick in it,
pretty nigh, by the smell, if you'd set me down side of 'em
"Did you ever know anyone named--" He finished the sentence.
"Sure and sartin, I did. Why?"
"Did you know him well?"
"Well's I wanted to. Pretty decent feller one time, but a fast
goer, and went downhill like a young one's sled, when he got
started. His folks had money, that was the trouble with him. Why,
'course I knew him! He married--"
"I know. Now, listen."
Ellery went on talking rapidly and with great earnestness.
Ebenezer listened, at first silently, then breaking in with
ejaculations and grunts of astonishment. He sat up on the edge of
"Rubbish!" he cried at last. "why, 'tain't possible! The feller's
dead as Methusalem's grandmarm. I remember how it happened and--"
"It wasn't true. That much I know. I KNOW, I tell you."
He went on to explain why he knew. Capen's astonishment grew.
"Judas priest!" he exclaimed again. "That would explain why I
thought I'd seen-- There! heave ahead. I've got to see. But it's
a mistake. I don't believe it."
The pair entered the sick room. The sailor lay in a stupor. His
breathing was rapid, but faint. Capen bent over him and gently
moved the bandage on his face. For a full minute he gazed
steadily. Then he stood erect, drew a big red hand across his
forehead, and moved slowly back to the living room.
"Well?" asked Ellery eagerly.
Ebenezer sat down in the rocker. "Judas priest!" he said for the
third time. "Don't talk to ME! When it comes my time they'll have
to prove I'm dead. I won't believe it till they do. Ju-das
"Then you recognize him?"
The old man nodded solemnly.
"Yup," he said, "it's him. Mr. Ellery, what are you goin' to do
"I don't know. I don't know. I must go somewhere by myself and
think. I don't know WHAT to do."
The minister declined to wait for breakfast. He said he was not
hungry. Leaving Ebenezer to put on the coffeepot and take up his
duties as day nurse, Ellery walked off along the beach. The "dead
line" prevented his going very far, but he sat down in the lee of a
high dune and thought until his head ached. What should he do?
What was best for him to do?
He heard the rattle of the doctor's chaise and the voices of
Ebenezer and Parker in conversation. He did not move, but remained
where he was, thinking, thinking. By and by he heard Capen calling
"Mr. Ellery!" shouted Ebenezer. "Mr. Ellery, where be you?"
"Here!" replied the minister.
The old man came scrambling over the sand. He was panting and much
"Mr. Ellery!" he cried, "Mr. Ellery! it's settled for us--one part
of it, anyhow. He's slipped his cable."
"What?" The minister sprang up.
"Yup. He must have died just a little while after you left and
after I gave him his medicine. I thought he looked kind of queer
then. And when the doctor came we went in together and he was
dead. Yes, sir, dead."
"Um--hm. No doubt of it; it's for good this time. Mr. Ellery,
what shall we do? Shall I tell Dr. Parker?"
Ellery considered for a moment. "No," he said slowly. "No, Capen,
don't tell anyone. I can't see why they need ever know that he
hasn't been dead for years, as they supposed. Promise me to keep
it a secret. I'll tell--her--myself, later on. Now promise me; I
"Land sakes, yes! I'll promise, if you want me to. I'm a widower
man, so there'll be nobody to coax it out of me. I guess you're
right, cal'late you be. What folks don't know they can't lie
about, can they? and that's good for your business--meanin' nothin'
disreverent. I'll promise, Mr. Ellery; I'll swear to it. Now come
on back to the shanty. The doctor wants you."
The next day the body of "Murphy," foremast hand on the San Jose,
was buried in the corner of the Regular graveyard, near those who
were drowned in the wreck of that winter. There was no funeral, of
course. The minister said a prayer at the shanty, and that was
all. Ebenezer drove the wagon which was used as hearse for the
occasion, and filled in the grave himself. So great was the fear
of the terrible smallpox that the sexton would not perform even
that service for its victim.
Capen remained at the shanty another week. Then, as the minister
showed no symptoms of having contracted the disease and insisted
that he needed no companion, Ebenezer departed to take up his
fishing once more. The old man was provided with a new suit of
clothes, those he had worn being burned, and having been, to his
huge disgust, fumigated until, as he said, he couldn't smell
himself without thinking of a match box, went away. The room which
the dead sailor had occupied was emptied and sealed tight. The San
Jose was to stay at her anchorage a while longer. Then, when all
danger was past, she was to be towed to Boston and sold at auction
for the benefit of the heirs of her dead skipper and owner.
Ellery himself was most urgent in the decision that he should not
go back to the parsonage and his church just yet. Better to wait
until he was sure, he said, and Dr. Parker agreed. "I'd be willing
to bet that you are all right," declared the latter, "but I know
Trumet, and if I SHOULD let you go and you did develop even the
tail end of a case of varioloid--well, 'twould be the everlasting
climax for you and me in this county."
Staying alone was not unpleasant, in a way. The "dead line" still
remained, of course, and callers did not attempt to pass it, but
they came more frequently and held lengthy conversations at a
respectful distance. Ellery did his own cooking, what little there
was to do, but so many good things were pushed under the ropes that
he was in a fair way to develop weight and indigestion. Captain
Zeb Mayo drove down at least twice a week and usually brought Mrs.
Coffin with him. From them and from the doctor the prisoner
learned the village news. Once Captain Elkanah and Annabel came,
and the young lady's gushing praise of the minister's "heroism"
made its recipient almost sorry he had ever heard of the San Jose.
Dr. Parker told him of Grace Van Horne's return to the village.
She had come back, so the doctor said, the day before, and was to
live at the tavern for a while, at least. Yes, he guessed even she
had given up hope of Captain Nat now.
"And say," went on Parker, "how are you feeling?"
"Pretty well, thank you," replied the minister. "I seem to be
rather tired and good for nothing. More so than I was during the
worst of it."
"No wonder. A chap can't go through what you did and not feel some
reaction. I expected that. Don't get cold, that's all. But what
I want to know is whether you think I could leave you for a couple
of days? The Ostable County Medical Society meets at Hyannis
to-morrow and I had promised myself to take it in this year.