Part 6 out of 7
But I don't want to leave you, if you need me."
Ellery insisted that he did not need anyone, was getting along
finely, and would not hear of his friend's missing the medical
society's meeting. So the physician went.
"Good-by," he called as he drove off. "I guess your term is pretty
nearly over. I shall let you out of jail inside of four or five
days, if you behave yourself."
This should have been cheering news, but, somehow, John Ellery did
not feel cheerful that afternoon. The tired feeling he had spoken
of so lightly was worse than he had described it, and he was
despondent, for no particular reason. That night he slept
miserably and awoke with a chill to find a cold, pouring rain
beating against the windows of the shanty.
He could not eat and he could not keep warm, even with the cook-
stove top red hot and a blanket over his shoulders. By noon the
chill had gone and he was blazing with fever. Still the rain and
the wind, and no visitors at the ropes, not even the light-keeper.
He lay down on his bed and tried to sleep, but though he dozed a
bit, woke always with a start and either a chill or fever fit. His
head began to ache violently. And then, in the lonesomeness and
misery, fear began to take hold of him.
He remembered the symptoms the doctor had warned him against,
headache, fever, and all the rest. He felt his wrists and arms and
began to imagine that beneath the skin were the little bunches,
like small shot, that were the certain indications. Then he
remembered how that other man had looked, how he had died. Was he
to look that way and die like that? And he was all alone, they had
left him alone.
Night came. The rain had ceased and stars were shining clear.
Inside the shanty the minister tossed on the bed, or staggered back
and forth about the two rooms. He wondered what the time might be;
then he did not care. He was alone. The smallpox had him in its
grip. He was alone and he was going to die. Why didn't some one
come? Where was Mrs. Coffin? And Grace? She was somewhere near
him--Parker had said so--and he must see her before he died. He
called her name over and over again.
The wind felt cold on his forehead. He stumbled amidst the beach
grass. What was this thing across his path? A rope, apparently,
but why should there be ropes in that house? There had never been
any before. He climbed over it and it was a climb of hundreds of
feet and the height made him giddy. That was a house, another
house, not the one he had been living in. And there were lights
all about. Perhaps one of them was the light at the parsonage.
And a big bell was booming. That was his church bell and he would
be late for the meeting.
Some one was speaking to him. He knew the voice. He had known it
always and would know it forever. It was the voice he wanted to
hear. "Grace!" he called. "Grace! I want you. Don't go! Don't
go! Grace! oh, my dear! don't go!"
Then the voice had gone. No, it had not gone. It was still there
and he heard it speaking to him, begging him to listen, pleading
with him to go somewhere, go back, back to something or other. And
there was an arm about his waist and some one was leading him,
helping him. He broke down and cried childishly and some one cried
Early the next morning, just as day was breaking, a buggy, the
horse which drew it galloping, rocked and bumped down the
lighthouse lane. Dr. Parker, his brows drawn together and his lips
set with anxiety, was driving. He had been roused from sleep in
the hotel at Hyannis by a boy with a telegram. "Come quick," it
read. "Mr. Ellery sick." The sender was Noah Ellis, the
lightkeeper. The doctor had hired a fast horse, ridden at top
speed to Bayport, gotten a fresh horse there and hurried on. He
stopped at his own house but a moment, merely to rouse his wife and
ask her if there was any fresh news. But she had not even heard of
the minister's seizure.
"My soul, Will!" she cried, "you don't think it's the smallpox, do
"Lord knows! I'm afraid so," groaned her husband. "WHAT made me
leave him? I ought to have known better. If that boy dies, I'll
never draw another easy breath."
He rushed out, sprang into the buggy, and drove on. At the ropes,
early as it was, he found a small group waiting and gazing at the
shanty. The lightkeeper was there and two or three other men.
They were talking earnestly.
"How is he, Noah?" demanded the doctor, jumping to the ground.
"I don't know, doc," replied Ellis. "I ain't heard sence last
night when I telegraphed you."
"Haven't heard? What do you mean by that? Haven't you been with
"No-o," was the rather sheepish reply. "You see, I--I wanted to,
but my wife's awful scart I'll catch it and--"
"The devil!" Dr. Parker swore impatiently. "Who is with him then?
You haven't left him alone, have you?"
"No-o," Noah hesitated once more. "No-o, he ain't alone. She's
"She? Who? Keziah Coffin?"
"I don't cal'late Keziah's heard it yet. We was waitin' for you
'fore we said much to anybody. But she's there--the--the one that
found him. You see, he was out of his head and wanderin' up the
lane 'most to the main road and she'd been callin' on Keziah and
when she come away from the parsonage she heard him hollerin' and
goin' on and--"
"Why"--the lightkeeper glanced at his companions--"why, doc, 'twas
Grace Van Horne. And she fetched him back to the shanty and then
come and got me to telegraph you."
"Grace Van Horne! Grace Van-- Do you mean to say she is there
with him NOW?"
"Yes. She wouldn't leave him. She seemed 'most as crazy's he was.
My wife and me, we--"
But Parker did not wait to hear the rest. He ran at full speed to
the door of the shanty. Grace herself opened it.
"How is he?" demanded the doctor.
"I think he seems a little easier; at any rate, he's not delirious.
He's in there. Oh, I'm so thankful you've come."
"Is that the doctor?" called Ellery weakly from the next room. "Is
"Yes," replied Parker, throwing off his coat and hat. "Coming, Mr.
"For God's sake, doctor, send her away. Don't let her stay. Make
her go. Make her GO! I've got the smallpox and if she stays she
will die. Don't you understand? she MUST go."
"Hush, John," said Grace soothingly. "Hush, dear."
Dr. Parker stopped short and looked at her. She returned the look,
but without the slightest semblance of self-consciousness or
embarrassment. She did not realize that she had said anything
unusual, which must sound inexplicably strange to him. Her
thoughts were centered in that adjoining room and she wondered why
"Well?" she asked impatiently. "What is it? Why do you wait?"
The doctor did not answer. However, he waited no longer, but
hurried in to his new patient.
IN WHICH KEZIAH DECIDES TO FIGHT
The news was flying from house to house along the main road.
Breakfasts were interrupted as some neighbor rushed in to tell the
story which another neighbor had brought to him or her. Mr. Ellery
was very sick and it was feared he had the smallpox, that was what
Mrs. Parker, the doctor's wife, told those who lived near her. By
the time the Corners heard of it the tale had grown until the
minister was said to be dying. And when it reached Gaius Winslow's
home at the upper end of the town he was reported dead. This was
denied, upon investigation, but soon another rumor grew and spread;
Grace Van Horne was with him, had taken him back to the shanty, and
insisted upon staying there until the doctor came. Facing that
dreadful disease and-- It was wonderful--and queer.
At the Danielses' house the servant girl rushed into the dining
room to serve the toast and the story at one swoop. Captain
Elkanah's dignity deserted him for an instant and his egg spoon
jingled to the floor. Annabel's face turned a dull red. Her eyes
"Pa!" she cried, "I--I--if you don't do something now I'll never--"
Her father shook his head warningly. "Debby," he said to the maid,
"you needn't wait."
Debby departed reluctantly. After the kitchen door had closed,
Captain Elkanah said: "My dear, we mustn't be too hasty in this
matter. Remember, Mr. Ellery is very sick. As for--for the Van
Horne girl, we haven't heard the whole truth yet. She may not be
there at all, or it may be just an accident--"
"Accident! Pa, you make me boil. Accident! Accidents like that
don't happen. If you let her stay there, or if-- Oh, to think of
it! And we were calling him a hero and--and everything! Hero! he
stayed there just so she might--"
"Hush! hush, child!"
"I shan't hush. Pa, are you going to let him disgrace himself with
"No, no. Probably there ain't any idea of his marrying her. If
"If there is you put him out of the church and out of this town.
And as for HER-- O-oh! And we've been having him here at dinner
and--and I have-- Oh, I shall die! I wish I WAS dead!"
Then followed hysterics and agony, greedily listened to by Debby,
whose ear was at the crack of the door. Captain Elkanah soothed
and pleaded and tried to pacify. It ended by his promising to
investigate and, if necessary, take steps 'immejitly.'
Lavinia Pepper sprung the mine on her brother. Kyan was horrified.
He had grown to be one of Ellery's most devoted worshipers.
"Smallpox!" he groaned. "The minister got the smallpox. Oh!
"Ain't it?" observed his sister, also horrified, but rather
relishing the horror. "And if it hadn't been for Gracie Van Horne--"
"What's the matter with you? I say, if Gracie Van Horne hadn't
happened to meet him, wanderin' around, crazy as a coot, and toted
"Gracie--Van--Horne! Godfreys mighty! She--she met him? Where?
Down to Peters's grove, was it?"
"Peters's grove! No. What on earth made you think 'twas there?
She'd been visitin' Keziah Coffin at the parsonage, and when she
come out on the main road she heard him aravin' down the lane.
Must have passed right by this house and we never heard him. I
never see such a dead man as you be when you're asleep. You don't
SOUND dead, I'll say that for you, but nothin' wakes you up."
"Why, Laviny! you never woke up yourself."
"That's right, lay it onto me. I expected you would; it's just
like you. But why in time did you think Grace met the minister way
down to Peters's grove? That's the most loony notion ever I heard,
even from you. What made you think of it?"
"Nothin', nothin'. I guess I WAS loony, maybe. Dear! dear! dear!
have you heard how's he's gettin' on? Is he took bad?"
"I ain't heard nothin' yet, nobody has. But see here, 'Bish
Pepper, you act funny to me. I want to know more about that
Peters's grove notion. WHY did you say it?"
Kyan wriggled upon the rack and dodged and squirmed for the next
twenty minutes. He tried his best to keep the fateful secret, but
he admitted too much, or not enough, and his sister kept up the
cross-examination. At the end of the session she was still
unsatisfied, but she was on the scent and her brother knew it. He
fled to the woodshed and there punctuated his morning task of
kindling chopping with groans and awful forebodings.
One of the very first to hear of the minister's illness was Keziah
Coffin. Mrs. Parker told her and Keziah started for the beach
before the tale of Grace's part in the night's happenings reached
the village. She did not wait for a conveyance, hardly waited to
throw a shawl over her shoulders, but began to cover the three
miles on foot. She had walked nearly two thirds of the distance
when Captain Zeb Mayo overtook her and gave her a seat in his
They said little during the drive, the shock and anxiety forbidding
conversation. At the ropes was the same group, larger now, and Dr.
Parker's horse was hitched to one of the posts.
"You can't go in, Mrs. Coffin," said Thoph Black. "The doctor give
us his orders not to let nobody get by. I guess nobody wants to,
but all the same--"
Keziah paid not the slightest attention to Mr. Black. She stooped
beneath his arm, under the rope and was on her way to the shanty
before they realized her intention. Captain Zeb roared a command
for her to return, but she kept on. No one followed, not even the
captain. Mrs. Mayo had strictly forbidden his passing the dead
Keziah opened the door and entered the little building. The living
room was empty, but at the sound of her step some one came from the
room adjoining. That some one was Grace.
"Aunt Keziah!" she cried. "What did you come here for? Why did
"Gracie!" exclaimed the housekeeper. "You?--YOU?"
Dr. Parker appeared, holding up a hand for silence.
"Hush!" he cried. "He's quiet now and I think he will sleep.
Don't talk here. Go outside, if you must talk--and I suppose you
Grace led the way. Fortunately, the door was on the side not
visible from the spot where Captain Zeb and the rest were standing.
Keziah, bewildered and amazed at the girl's presence, followed
"Now, auntie," whispered Grace, turning to her, "you want to know
how he is, of course. Well, I think he is better. The doctor
thinks so, too. But why did you come here?"
"Why did I come? I? Why, because my place was here. I belonged
here. For the love of mercy's sakes what are YOU doin' here? With
HIM? And the smallpox!"
"Hush. I can't help it. I don't care. I don't care for anything
any more. I'm glad I came. I'm glad I was the one to find him and
help him. No matter what happens--to me--I'm glad. I never was so
glad before. I love him, Aunt Keziah. I can say it to you, for
you know it--you must know it. I LOVE him and he needed me and I
came. He was calling my name when I found him. He might have died
there, alone in the wet and cold, and I saved him. Think what that
means to me."
The girl was in a sort of frenzy of excitement and hysterical
exaltation. All the night she had been calm and quiet, repressing
her feelings, and tending the man she loved. Now, with some one to
whom she could confide, she was calm no longer. Keziah answered
her soothingly, questioning her from time to time, until, at last,
she learned the whole story.
The door opened softly and Dr. Parker came out.
"He's asleep," he said. "And he's better, much better. And I'll
tell you something else, if you won't make too much noise about it--
he hasn't got the smallpox."
The two women looked at him.
"Fact," he said, with an emphatic nod. "Not a symptom of it. I'd
have bet my best hat that he wasn't going to have it and I won't
have to go bareheaded yet awhile. He is pretty close to brain
fever, though, but I guess he'll dodge that this time, with care.
On the whole, Keziah, I'm glad you came. This young lady," with a
movement of the head toward Grace, "has done her part. She really
saved his life, if I'm not mistaken. Now, I think she can go away
and leave him to you and me. I'll pretty nearly guarantee to have
him up and out of this--this pesthole in a fortnight."
Here was joyful tidings, the better for being so unexpected.
Keziah leaned against the boards and drew a long breath. Grace
said nothing, but, after a moment, she went into the house.
"That's a good thing, too," commented Parker, watching her as she
went. "I wanted to talk with you, Keziah Coffin, and right away.
Now, then, there's something up, something that I don't know about,
and I rather guess you do. Young women--even when they're her kind
and that's as good a kind as there is--don't risk smallpox for any
young man they pick up casually. They don't carry--I guess it was
pretty nearly carrying--him home and put him to bed and care for
him and cry over him and call him 'dear.' And he doesn't beg them
to run away and let him die rather than to stay there and risk
dying, too. No, not to any great extent. Now, Keziah, you and I
are fairly good friends and we ought to know each other by this
time. I see a light--a little one. Now, then, if you turn up the
lamp, so that I can see the whole blaze, maybe I can help those two
Keziah considered. "All right, doctor," she said, when she reached
a decision, "all right; I'll tell you the whole thing, and you can
see one of the reasons why my hair is gettin' grayer. This thing
has reached the point now where there's no keepin' it quiet.
Folk'll know--I s'pose they know already--that she's been here with
him. They'll suspect a lot more and the truth is better than
suspicion--that is, it can't be worse than the suspicions that come
natural to a good many minds in this town. I am glad I can tell
you, for I guess the time's come to step out in broad daylight and
h'ist our colors. Now, you listen. Here 'tis, from beginnin' to
She went on to tell all she knew of her parson's love story.
Dr. Parker listened.
"Hum!" he said thoughtfully, "I see. What made her change her mind
so suddenly? You say, or you gather from what Mr. Ellery told you,
that she had all but agreed to marry him. She cares for him,
that's sure. Then, all at once, she throws him over and accepts
Nat. Of course her uncle's sudden seizure was a shock and he
wanted Nat to have her, but she isn't the kind of girl to be easily
swayed. Why did she do it?"
"Well, doctor, that's kind of a puzzle to me. All I can think is
that she come to realize what it might mean to him, the minister,
if he married a Come-Outer. I think she done it for his sake, to
save him, though what made her realize it all at once I don't know.
There's the part we ain't heard."
"I guess you're right. Something happened between the time she
left Ellery and when you and I reached the tavern. But never mind
that, that doesn't count now. Let's look at things as they are
this minute. She's here and folks know it. As they do know it
they'll begin to talk, and the more they talk the farther from the
truth they'll get--most of 'em. Nat, poor chap, is dead, so her
promise to him is canceled. Ellery will get well if he isn't
troubled, and her being with him will help more than anything else.
I can understand now why he broke down."
"Yes, he ain't been himself since it happened."
"Of course, and the last few weeks of worry and night work have
helped to wreck his nerves. Well, as I see it, there's only one
thing to do. If she leaves him he'll go to pieces again, so she
mustn't leave. And she can't stay without an explanation. I say
let's give the explanation; let's come right out with the
announcement that they're engaged."
"Whew! that'll stir things up."
"You bet! But let it stir. I like that parson of yours; he's a
trump. And I always liked her, although, generally speaking, I
don't love Come-Outers. And I like her more than ever now, when
she risked what she thought was smallpox to care for him. As I
said, she saved his life, and she ought to have him. She SHALL
"But she's a Come-Outer and--there's the church."
"Well, I know it. But he never was so popular as he is now. And
she isn't by any means a steady-going Come-Outer. Why, Zeke
Bassett and the rest have been finding fault with her and calling
her a backslider. That'll help. Then you trust me to whoop up her
heroism and the fact that without her he would have died. We can
do it, Keziah. Come on! I've tackled a good many jobs, but
matchmaking isn't one of 'em. Here goes to tackle that."
Keziah was delighted; here was work after her own heart. But she
"Doctor," she said, "you've forgot one thing, that's Gracie
herself. Would she marry him now, knowing it may mean the loss of
his ministry and all, any more than she would at first? I don't
"That's your part, Keziah. You've got to show her she MUST marry
him or he'll die; see? Call on me to back you up in any fairy yarn
you spin. You prove to her it's her duty to marry him. You'll
have to stay, here and help nurse, of course, and that's easy
because his disease isn't contagious. You convince her and I'll
take care of the congregation. He'll live to be minister here for
the rest of his life, if he wants to, and she'll be a minister's
wife and sit in the front pew. I'll guarantee the church if you'll
guarantee the girl. Why, it's your duty! Come, now, what do you
Keziah's hesitation was at an end. Her face lit up.
"I say good!" she cried. "And I'll be thankful to you all the rest
of my life. But for the dear mercy sakes, don't say 'duty' to me
again. Oh, doctor, if you only knew what it means to me to be
fightin' at last for somethin' that ain't just duty, but what I
really want! I do honestly believe we can win. Glory, hallelujah!
And now I want to give you a piece of advice, your course for the
first leg, as you might say: you see Cap'n Zebedee Mayo."
"Humph! Cap'n Zeb is the first man I mean to see."
Captain Zeb listened with his mouth and eyes and ears open. Mrs.
Mayo was with him when the doctor called, and she, too, listened.
"Well!" exclaimed the captain, when the plea for support was ended.
"Well, by the flukes of Jonah's whale! Talk about surprises! Old
lady, what do you say?"
"I say go ahead, Zebedee. Go ahead! If Mr. Ellery wanted to marry
Jezebel's sister, and I knew he really wanted to, I'd--I do believe
I'd help him get her. And Grace Van Horne is a good girl. Go
"Of course," put in Parker, profiting by a hint of Mrs. Coffin's,
"of course Daniels will fight tooth and nail against us. He'll be
for discharging Ellery at once. And he really runs the parish
"He does, hey? Well, I cal'late he don't. Not if I'm on deck, he
don't. All right, doctor, I'm with you. He, he, he!" he chuckled.
"Say, doc, do you know I sort of love a good lively row. That's
been the only trouble with our society sence Mr. Ellery took
command of it--there ain't been any rows. He, he, he! Well,
there'll be one now."
There was, and it was lively enough to suit even Captain Zeb. Dr.
Parker, on his calls that day, was assailed with a multitude of
questions concerning Grace's presence at the shanty. He answered
them cheerfully, dilating upon the girl's bravery, her good sense,
and the fact that she had saved Mr. Ellery's life. Then he
confided, as a strict secret, the fact that the two were engaged.
Before his hearers had recovered from the shock of this explosion,
he was justifying the engagement. Why shouldn't they marry if they
wanted to? It was a free country. The girl wasn't a Come-Outer
any longer, and, besides--and this carried weight in a good many
households--what a black eye the marriage would be for that no-
account crowd at the chapel.
Captain Zebedee, having shipped with the insurgents, worked for
them from sunrise to sunset and after. Zeb was something of a
politician and knew whom to "get at." He sought his fellows on the
parish committee and labored with them. Mrs. Mayo and the doctor's
wife championed the cause at sewing circle. They were lively,
those sewing meetings, and the fur flew. Didama Rogers and Lavinia
Pepper were everywhere and ready to agree with whichever side
seemed likely to win. Lavinia was so deeply interested that she
forgot to catechise Abishai further about his untimely reference to
Peters's grove. And Kyan, puzzled but thankful, kept silence.
It was by no means a one-sided struggle. Captain Elkanah, spurred
on by the furious Annabel, marshaled his forces and proclaimed that
Ellery, having disgraced the Regular Society, should no longer
occupy its pulpit.
"If he does," thundered Elkanah, "I shall never cross the threshold
of that church. And I've worshiped there for fifty years. Hum--
ha! I should like to know whose money has gone more liberal for
that meeting house than mine! But not another cent--no, sir! not
one--if that licentious young scamp continues to blaspheme there."
He hinted concerning a good-sized contribution toward a parish
house, something the society needed. If Ellery was discharged, the
contribution would probably be made, not otherwise. And this was a
point worth considering.
Daniels also wrote to his influential friends of the National
Regular Society. But Captain Zebedee had forestalled him there and
both letters were laid on the table to await further developments.
As for the Come-Outers, they were wild with rage and Grace was
formally read out of their communion.
"I wonder," shrieked Ezekiel Bassett, in prayer meeting, "what the
sperrit of the good and great man who used to lead us from this
'ere platform would say if he was here now? Hey? what would he
Josiah Badger upreared his lanky person. "I dreamed about Cap'n
Eben t'other n-nin-nun-night," he stammered. "I see him just as--
p-pup-pup-plain as you hear me n-n-now. And he says to me, he
says, Josiah,' he says, 'I-I-I-I--'"
"Ki yi!" broke in Thoph Baker, from the shadow of the rear seat.
Josiah turned to berate Thoph, who, being in disgrace because of
his defense of Ellery, was reckless, and the communication from the
dead leader of the Come-Outers was lost in the squabble which
Meantime Keziah, installed as head nurse at the shanty, was having
her troubles. The minister was getting better, slowly but surely
getting better. The danger of brain fever was at an end, but he
was very weak and must not be excited, so the doctor said. He knew
nothing of the struggle for and against him which was splitting
Trumet in twain, and care was taken that he should not know it. He
was not allowed to talk, and, for the most part, was quite
contented to be silent, watching Grace as she moved about the room.
If he wondered why she was still with him, he said nothing, and the
thought of what his congregation might say did not vex him in the
least. She was there, he saw her every day, that was enough.
He had expressed a wish to talk with his housekeeper. "I've got
something to tell you, Aunt Keziah," he said weakly. "Some news
for you and--and--"
"Cat's foot!" snapped Keziah briskly, "don't start in tellin' me
news now. I've got my hands full as 'tis. News'll keep and you
won't, if you talk another minute."
"But this is important."
"So are you, though you may not think so. If you don't believe it
"Well," the minister sighed. "Well, perhaps I won't tell it now.
I'd rather wait until I feel stronger. You won t care, will you?
It will be hard to tell and I--"
"No, no! Care? No. If it's bad news I don't want to hear it, and
if it's good I can wait, I cal'late. You turn over and take a
She could manage him; it was with Grace that she had her struggle.
John was safe now; he would be himself again before very long, and
the girl had begun to think of his future and his reputation. She
knew that gossip must be busy in the village, and, much as she
wished to remain by his side, she decided that she should not do
so. And then Keziah began to fulfill her agreement with Dr.
First, and bluntly, she told the girl that her leaving now was
useless. The secret was out; it had been made public. Everyone
knew she was in love with John and he with her. Their engagement
was considered an established certainty. Grace was greatly
agitated and very indignant.
"Who dared say so?" she demanded. "Who dared say we were engaged?
It's not true. It's a wicked lie and-- Who is responsible, Aunt
"Well, I suppose likely I am, much as anybody, deary."
"You? You, Aunt Keziah?"
"Yup; me. You are in love with him; at any rate, you said so. And
you're here with him, ain't you? If you two ain't engaged you
ought to be."
"Aunt Keziah, how can you speak so? Don't you realize--"
"Look here. Don't you want to marry him?"
"WANT to? Oh, please-- How can you? I--"
"S-s-sh! There! there! I am a bull-headed old thing, for sure.
But I'm like the dog that chased the rat across the shelf where
they kept the best china, my intentions are good. Don't cry,
deary. Let's get to the bottom of this thing, as the man said when
he tumbled into the well. When I first knew that you and John were
in love with each other, I felt dreadful. I knew your uncle and I
knew Trumet. If you had married then, or let people know that you
thought of it, 'twould have been the end, and ruin for John and
you. But things are diff'rent now, a good deal diff'rent. John is
worshiped pretty nigh, since his pluck with that smallpox man. He
could go into church and dance a jig in the pulpit and nobody--or
precious few, at least--would find fault. And you've stood by him.
If it wa'n't for you he wouldn't be here to-day, and people know
that. Dr. Parker and Captain Zebedee and Gaius Winslow and dozens
more are fighting for him and for you. And the doctor says they
are going to win. Do you want to spoil it all?"
"Aunt Keziah, that night before uncle died I was upstairs in my
room and I heard uncle and Captain Elkanah Daniels talking."
"Elkanah? Was he there at your house?"
"Yes. Somehow or other--I don't know how--he had learned about--
about John and me. And he was furious. Aunt Keziah, I heard him
say that unless I broke off with John he would drive him from the
ministry and from Trumet and disgrace him forever. He said that if
I really cared for him I would not ruin his life. That brought me
to myself. I realized how wicked I had been and what I was doing.
That was why I--I--"
"There! there! Tut! tut! tut! hum! Now I see. But, Gracie, you
ain't goin' to ruin his life. No, nor Elkanah ain't goin' to do
it, either. He can't, no matter how hard he tries. I've lived to
see the day when there's a bigger man in the Reg'lar church than
Elkanah Daniels, and I thank the good Lord for it."
"I never should have come here. I know it. But he needed me.
Aunt Keziah, he was sick and dying almost, and I couldn't leave
him. I came, and now he will be ruined and disgraced."
"He won't, I tell you; he won't. Listen to me. I ain't talkin'
for my health. Listen!"
She argued and pleaded and coaxed, and, at last, when she began to
think she had prevailed, Grace brought forward another objection.
She had given her word to her uncle. How could she break that
promise made to a dying man? She would feel like a traitor.
"Traitor to who?" demanded the housekeeper, losing patience. "Not
to poor Nat, for he's gone. And don't you suppose that he and Eben
understand things better now, where they are? Do you suppose that
Nat wouldn't want you to be happy? I know he would, for I knew
It was still unsettled when the long talk was over, but Grace
agreed not to leave the minister at present. She would stay where
she was until he was himself again, at least. Keziah was satisfied
with the preliminary skirmish. She felt confident of winning the
victory, and in the prospect of happiness for others, she was
almost happy herself. Yet each time the mail was brought to the
shanty she dreaded to look at it, and the sight of a stranger made
her shake with fear. Ansel Coffin had threatened to come to
Trumet. If he came, she had made up her mind what to do.
The parish committee was to meet. Captain Elkanah had announced
his intention of moving that John Ellery be expelled from the
Regular church. There was to be no compromise, no asking for a
resignation; he must be discharged, thrown out in disgrace. The
county papers were full of the squabble, but they merely reported
the news and did not take sides. The fight was too even for that.
Captain Zeb chuckled. "It's all right, Keziah," he said. "We know
what's what and who's who. The Rev. Mr. Ellery can preach here for
the next hundred year, if he lives that long and wants to, and he
can marry whoever he darn pleases, besides. Elkanah's licked and
he knows it. He ain't got enough backers to man a lobster dory.
Let him holler; noise don't scare grown folks."
One afternoon a few days before the date set for the meeting
Elkanah and two or three of his henchmen were on the piazza of the
Daniels home, discussing the situation. They were blue and
downcast. Annabel was in the sitting room, shedding tears of
humiliation and jealous rage on the haircloth sofa.
"Well," observed her father, "there's one thing we can do. If the
vote in committee goes against us, I shall insist on the calling of
a congregational meeting. Hum--ha! Yes, I shall insist on that."
"Won't be no good, cap'n," sniffed Beriah Salters dolefully. "The
biggest part of the congregation's for Ellery, and you know it.
They're as sot on him as if he was the angel Gabriel. If you'd
only told what you knew afore this smallpox business, we'd have
been able to give him and his Come-Outer woman what b'longs to 'em.
But not now."
Captain Daniels shifted uneasily in his chair.
"Hum--ha!" he barked, to cover confusion. Hum--ha! It seemed to me
more--er--charitable to give the misguided young man another
chance, and I did it. But-- What's that?"
Some one was talking excitedly on the sidewalk beyond the lilac
bushes at the border of the Daniels property. Voices answered.
Didama Rogers darted out of her yard and past the house in the
direction of the sounds. Salters rose and walked down to the gate.
"Hey!" he shouted. "Halloo! Ahoy there! You, Em'lous, what is
Emulous Sparrow, the fish peddler, was seated in his cart, which
was surrounded by men and women, neighbors of the Danielses. There
was a perfect storm of questionings and ejaculations. Salters
opened the gate and joined the group. A moment later he came
running back, up the walk toward the piazza.
"Cap'n," he shouted. "Cap'n Elkanah, here's news! What do you
think? A telegram's just come from Nat Hammond. He's safe and
sound in New York, and he'll be here day after to-morrow."
They could not believe it and rushed out to hear more. Emulous,
glowing with importance, affirmed that it was so. He had seen the
telegram at the store. It was for Grace Van Horne and they were
just going to send a boy over to the shanty with it.
"No details nor nothin'," he declared. "Just said 'Am all right.
Arrived to-day. Will be in Trumet Thursday.' And 'twas signed
'Nathaniel Hammond.' There!"
"Well, by thunder!" exclaimed Salters. "If that don't beat all. I
wonder what's happened to him? Two year gone and give up for dead,
and now-- What do you cal'late it means?"
Captain Elkanah seized him by the arm and led him out of the group.
The old man's face was alight with savage joy and his voice shook
"I'll tell you one thing it means," he whispered. "It means the
end of Ellery, so far as his marrying her is concerned. She gave
her word to Hammond and she'll keep it. She's no liar, whatever
else she is. He may be minister of the Regular church, though I'LL
never set under him, but he'll never marry her, now."
IN WHICH A RECEPTION IS CALLED OFF
Far out on the Pacific coast there are two small islands, perhaps a
hundred miles distant from one another. The first of these is
uninhabited. On the other is a little colony of English-speaking
people, half-breed descendants of native women and the survivors of
a crew from a British vessel cast away there in the latter part of
the eighteenth century.
On the first of these islands, the smaller one, the Sea Mist had
been wrecked. Driven out of her course by a typhoon, she staggered
through day after day and night after night of terrific wind and
storm until, at last, there was promise of fair weather. Captain
Nat, nearly worn out from anxiety, care, and the loss of sleep, had
gone to his stateroom and the first mate was in charge. It was
three o'clock, the wind still blowing and the darkness pitchy, when
the forward lookout shrieked a warning, "Breakers under the lee!"
Almost the next instant the ship was on a coral reef, full of
water, and the seas breaking over her from stem to stern.
Morning came and showed a little patch of land, with palm trees and
tropical vegetation waving in the gusts and green in the sunshine.
Captain Nat ordered the boats to be lowered. Much as he hated the
thought, he saw that the Sea Mist had made her last voyage and must
be abandoned. He went to the cabin, collected papers and charts
and prepared to leave. The ship's money, over ten thousand dollars
in gold belonging to the owner and to be used in trade and
speculation among the East Indies, he took with him. Then the
difficult and dangerous passage through the opening in the reef was
Only the captain's boat reached the shore. The mate's was caught
by a huge breaker, dashed against the reef and sunk. Captain Nat,
his second mate and five of his men were all that was left of the
Sea Mist's company. And on that island they remained for nearly
two weeks. Provisions they had brought ashore with them. Water
they found by digging. Nat hid the gold at night, burying it on
the beach below high-water mark.
Then, having made sure of his location by consulting the chart, he
determined to attempt a voyage to the second island, where he knew
the English colony to be. Provisions were getting short, and to
remain longer where they were was to risk starvation and all its
horrors. So, in the longboat, which was provided with a sail, they
started. Charts and papers and the gold the skipper took with
them. None of the crew knew of the existence of the money; it was
a secret which the captain kept to himself.
A hundred miles they sailed in the longboat and, at last, the
second island was sighted. They landed and found, to their
consternation and surprise, that it, too, was uninhabited. The
former residents had grown tired of their isolation and, a trading
vessel having touched there, had seized the opportunity to depart
for Tahiti. Their houses were empty, their cattle, sheep, goats,
and fowl roamed wild in the woods, and the fruit was rotting on the
trees. In its way the little island was an Eyeless Eden, flowing
with milk and honey; but to Captain Nat, a conscientious skipper
with responsibilities to his owners, it was a prison from which he
determined to escape. Then, as if to make escape impossible, a
sudden gale came up and the longboat was smashed by the surf.
"I guess that settles it," ruefully observed the second mate,
another Cape Codder, from Hyannis. Cal'late we'll stay here for a
spell now, hey, Cap'n."
"For a spell, yes," replied Nat. "We'll stay here until we get
another craft to set sail in, and no longer."
"Another craft? ANOTHER one? Where in time you goin' to get her?"
"Build her," said Captain Nat cheerfully. Then, pointing to the
row of empty houses and the little deserted church, he added,
"There's timber and nails--yes, and cloth, such as 'tis. If I
can't build a boat out of them I'll agree to eat the whole
He did not have to eat it, for the boat was built. It took them
six months to build her, and she was a curious-looking vessel when
done, but, as the skipper said, "She may not be a clipper, but
she'll sail anywhere, if you give her time enough." He had been
the guiding spirit of the whole enterprise, planning it, laying the
keel, burning buildings, to obtain nails and iron, hewing trees for
the largest beams, showing them how to spin ropes from cocoa-nut
fiber, improvising sails from the longboat's canvas pieced out with
blankets and odd bits of cloth from the abandoned houses. Even a
strip of carpet from the church floor went into the making of those
At last she was done, but Nat was not satisfied.
"I never commanded a ship where I couldn't h'ist Yankee colors," he
said, "and, by the everlastin'! I won't now. We've got to have a
So, from an old pair of blue overalls, a white cotton shirt, and
the red hangings of the church pulpit, he made a flag and hoisted
it to the truck of his queer command. They provisioned her, gave
her a liberal supply of fresh water, and, one morning, she passed
through the opening of the lagoon out to the deep blue of the
Pacific. And, hidden in her captain's stateroom under the head of
his bunk, was the ten thousand dollars in gold. For Nat had sworn
to himself, by "the everlasting" and other oaths, to deliver that
money to his New York owners safe and, necessary expenses deducted
of course, untouched.
For seven weeks the crazy nondescript slopped across the ocean.
Fair winds helped her and, at last, she entered the harbor of
Nukahiva, over twelve hundred miles away. And there--"Hammond's
luck," the sailors called it--was a United States man-of-war lying
at anchor, the first American vessel to touch at that little French
settlement for five years. The boat they built was abandoned and
the survivors of the Sea Mist were taken on board the man-of-war
and carried to Tahiti.
From Tahiti Captain Nat took passage on a French bark for Honolulu.
Here, after a month's wait, he found opportunity to leave for New
York on an American ship, the Stars and Stripes. And finally,
after being away from home for two years, he walked into the office
of his New York owners, deposited their gold on a table, and
cheerfully observed, "Well, here I am."
That was the yarn which Trumet was to hear later on. It filled
columns of the city papers at the time, and those interested may
read it, in all its details, in a book written by an eminent
author. The tale of a Cape Cod sea captain, plucky and resourceful
and adequate, as Yankee sea captains were expected to be, and were,
in those days.
But Trumet did not hear the yarn immediately. All that it heard
and all that it knew was contained in Captain Nat's brief telegram.
"Arrived to-day. Will be home Thursday." That was all, but it was
enough, for in that dispatch was explosive sufficient to blow to
atoms the doctor's plans and Keziah's, the great scheme which was
to bring happiness to John Ellery and Grace Van Horne.
Dr. Parker heard it, while on his way to Mrs. Prince's, and,
neglecting that old lady for the once, he turned his horse and
drove as fast as possible to the shanty on the beach. Fast as he
drove, Captain Zebedee Mayo got there ahead of him. Captain Zeb
was hitching his white and ancient steed to the post as the doctor
hove in sight.
"By mighty!" the captain exclaimed, with a sigh of relief, "I'm
glad enough you've come, doctor. I hated to go in there alone.
You've heard, of course."
"Yes, I've heard."
"Say, ain't it wonderful! I'm tickled all up one side and sorry
all down t'other. Nat's a true-blue feller, and I'm glad enough
that he ain't shark bait; but what about the minister and her?
She's promised to Nat, you know, and--"
"I know. Don't I know! I've been going over the affair and trying
to see a way out ever since I heard of the telegram. Tut! tut!
I'm like you, mighty glad Hammond is safe, but it would have spared
complications if he had stayed wherever he's been for a few months
longer. We would have married those two in there by that time."
"Sartin we would. But he didn't stay. Are you goin' to tell Mr.
"Certainly not. And I hope he hasn't been told. He's getting well
fast now, but he mustn't be worried, or back he'll go again. We
must see Mrs. Coffin. Keziah is our main hold. That woman has got
more sense than all the rest of us put together."
But it was Grace, not Keziah, who opened the shanty door in answer
to their knock. She was pale and greeted them calmly, but it was
evident that her calmness was the result of sheer will power.
"Won't you come in, doctor?" she asked. "Good afternoon, Captain
Dr. Parker entered the building, but Captain Zeb remained outside,
stammering that he cal'lated he'd better stay where he could keep
an eye on his horse. This was such a transparent excuse that it
would have been funny at any other time. No one smiled now,
"Is--is Mrs. Coffin--er--Keziah aboard?" the captain asked.
"No, she isn't. She went to the parsonage a few hours ago. Mr.
Ellis brought the mail and there was a letter in it for her. She
said it was important and that she must go home to see about some
things. She'll be back pretty soon, I suppose."
The doctor whispered her name then and she went inside, closing the
door after her. Captain Zebedee sat down on the step to ponder
over the new and apparently insurmountable difficulty which had
arisen. As he said afterwards, "The more I tried to get an
observation, the thicker it got. Blamed if I could see anything
but fog, but I could hear--I could hear Elkanah and his gang
gigglin', ahead, astern and off both bows."
Parker found his patient sleeping soundly and had not disturbed
him. Returning to the living room he spoke to Grace.
"Humph!" he grunted, watching her from under his brows, "everything
seems to be all right in there. He hasn't been excited or anything
"That's good. He mustn't be. You understand that? He mustn't be
told anything that will upset him. He's getting well fast and I
want it to continue."
"Yes, I understand."
"Hum! Er--have you heard-- Has anyone been here?"
"Yes. I have heard. The telegram came and I answered it."
"You did? Well, it's a miracle and we're all thankful, of course.
"Doctor, I must go home. I mustn't stay here any longer."
"You know why not. I must be at home when he comes. You must get
some one to take my place. Aunt Keziah will stay, of course, and
perhaps Mrs. Higgins would come, or Hannah Poundberry. She--"
"Not if I know it. I'd as soon have a hay-cutter running in here
as Hannah's tongue. I could stop a hay-cutter when it got too
noisy. Well, if you must go, you must, I suppose. But stay
through tomorrow, at any rate. Nat won't get here until Thursday,
and I may be able to find another nurse by that time. And what I
shall say to him," motioning toward the other room, "I don't know."
"Must you say anything? Just say that I have been called away for
a few days on--on some business. Don't tell him. Don't tell him
the truth, doctor, now. He is too weak and I am afraid--"
She stopped and turned away. The doctor watched her pityingly.
"Cheer up," he said. "At any rate, this is only for a little
while. When the captain knows, if he's the man I take him for,
She whirled like a flash. "You're not going to tell him?" she
cried. "No, no! You mustn't. You must promise me you won't.
"Somebody'll tell him. Telling things is Trumet's specialty."
"Then you must stop it. No one must tell him--no one except me. I
shall tell him, of course. He must hear it from me and not from
anyone else. He would think I was disloyal and ungrateful--and I
am! I have been! But I was--I COULDN'T help it. You know,
doctor, you know--"
"Yes, yes, I know. Well, I'll promise, but it will all come out
right, you see. You mustn't think I--we--have been interfering in
your affairs, Grace. But we've all come to think a whole lot of
that parson of ours and what he wanted we wanted him to have,
"I know. Thank you very much for all your kindness, and for your
He would have liked to say much more, but he could not, under the
circumstances. He stammered a good-by and, with a question
concerning Mrs. Coffin's whereabouts, went out to join Captain Zeb.
"Well?" queried the latter anxiously. "How is it? What's up?
What's the next tack?"
"We'll go to the parsonage," was the gloomy answer. "If anybody
can see a glimmer in this cussed muddle Keziah Coffin can."
Keziah was on her knees in her room, beside a trunk, the same trunk
she had been packing the day of the minister's arrival in Trumet.
She was working frantically, sorting garments from a pile,
rejecting some and keeping others. She heard voices on the walk
below and went down to admit the callers.
"What's the matter, Keziah?" asked Dr. Parker sharply, after a look
at her face. "You look as if you'd been through the war. Humph!
I suppose you've heard the news?"
Keziah brushed back the hair from her forehead. "Yes," she answered
slowly. "I've heard it."
"Well, it's great news, and if it wasn't for--if things weren't as
they are, I'd be crowing hallelujahs this minute. Trumet has got a
good man safe and sound again, and the Lord knows it needs all of
that kind it can get."
"Yes. But there's the other matter. I've been to see Grace. She
didn't say so, but it was easy enough to see; the man she promised
to marry and thought was dead, is alive. She's a girl of her word--
she promised him and she promised her dying uncle--and she'll
marry him. And then what will become of John Ellery? He'll go
downhill so fast that a ship's anchor wouldn't hold him. If he
doesn't die I'll have to send him away somewhere, and the Regular
church will lose the minister we've fought so hard for."
"Yes," concurred Zebedee, "and them blasted Danielses'll run the
shebang and the rest of us'll have to sing small, I tell you."
"So we've come to you, Keziah," went on the doctor. "Do you see
"Yes, I do."
"You do? Where?"
"In Nat Hammond. If he knows Grace doesn't want to marry him, do
you suppose he'll hold her to her promise?"
"I don't know. I'm not so sure. Men don't give up girls like that
so easy. I wouldn't--by George, I wouldn't! And she won't tell
him the whole truth, I'm afraid. She'll pretend to be glad--hang
it! she IS glad--to have him home again and--"
"Of course she's glad. Ain't we all glad and happy and thankful?
We ought to be. But"--she hesitated--"doctor, you leave this to
me. So far as John and Grace are concerned you needn't worry.
I'll take it on myself to see that they have each other, as the
Almighty meant 'em to. Leave it to me. Just leave it to me. I
KNOW I can do it."
She would not say more, nor tell on what grounds she based her
optimism. She would go back to the shanty that evening, she said,
and stay until the following afternoon. Grace would undoubtedly go
to the old tavern to prepare for the homecoming. Let Mrs. Higgins
take her place as nurse.
"I shall have to leave, myself," she added, "for a little while; so
perhaps you'd better try to get somebody else to help the Higgins
woman. Don't ask me any questions, please don't, and be sure not
to say a word to anybody--most of all to Grace. Just do as I tell
you and leave it to me. And don't come and see me again until
after--after he comes home. Good-by, doctor. Good-by, Cap'n Zeb."
She shook hands with each of them, a rather unusual proceeding as
they thought of it afterwards. Then they went away and left her.
"Humph!" mused Parker, as they came out at the gate. "Humph! She
seems sure, doesn't she. And yet she doesn't act like herself.
Did you notice that?"
"Yup. I noticed it. But I expect Nat's droppin' out of the clouds
shook her up, same as it done the rest of us. Well, never mind.
She's a bully good, capable woman and what she says she'll do she
gen'rally does. I'm bettin' on her. By time! I feel better."
Captain Elkanah Daniels and his friends were feeling better also,
and they were busy. Trumet had a new hero now. On Wednesday the
Boston papers printed excerpts from Captain Hammond's story, and
these brief preliminary accounts aroused the admiration of every
citizen. It was proposed to give him a reception. Elkanah was the
moving spirit in the preparations. Captain Nat, so they learned by
telegraphing, would arrive on the noon train Thursday. His was not
to be a prosaic progress by stage all the way from Sandwich. A
special carriage, drawn by the Daniels span and escorted by other
vehicles, was to meet the coach at Bayport and bring him to Trumet
in triumphant procession. All this was to be a surprise, of
Wednesday afternoon the Daniels following was cheered by the
tidings that Grace Van Horne had left the beach and was at her old
home, the Hammond tavern. And Mrs. Poundberry reported her busy as
a bee "gettin' things ready." This was encouraging and indicated
that the minister had been thrown over, as he deserved to be, and
that Nat would find his fiancee waiting and ready to fulfill her
contract. "Reg'lar whirligig, that girl," sniffed Didama Rogers.
"If she can't have one man she'll take the next, and then switch
back soon's the wind changes. However, most likely she never was
engaged to Mr. Ellery, anyhow. He's been out of his head and might
have said some fool things that let Dr. Parker and the rest b'lieve
he was in love with her. As for pickin' of him up and totin' him
back to the shanty that night, that wa'n't nothin' but common
humanity. She couldn't let him die in the middle of the lighthouse
lane, could she?"
Thursday was a perfect day, and the reception committee was on hand
and waiting in front of the Bayport post office. The special
carriage, the span brushed and curried until their coats glistened
in the sunshine, was drawn up beside the platform. The horses had
little flags fastened to their bridles, and there were other and
larger flags on each side of the dashboard. Captain Daniels,
imposing in his Sunday raiment, high-collared coat, stock, silk hat
and gold-headed cane, sat stiffly erect on the seat in the rear.
The other carriages were alongside, among them Captain Zebedee
Mayo's ancient chaise, the white horse sound asleep between the
shafts. Captain Zeb had not been invited to join the escort, but
had joined it without an invitation.
"I guess likely I'd better be on hand," the captain confided to Dr.
Parker. "Maybe I can stop Elkanah from talkin' too much about--
well, about what we don't want him to talk about, and besides, I'm
just as anxious to give Nat a welcome home as the next feller.
He's a brick and we're all proud of him. By mighty! I'd like to
have seen that craft he built out of cocoanuts and churches--I
Kyan Pepper was there also, not yet fully recovered from the
surprise which Lavinia's gracious permission had given him.
Abishai had been leaning disconsolately over his front gate early
that morning when Noah Ellis, the lightkeeper, jogged down the
"'Mornin', 'Bish," hailed Noah, pulling up his horse. "What's the
matter? You look bluer'n a spiled mack'rel. What's the row?
Breakfast disagree with you?"
"Naw," replied Kyan shortly. "Where you bound, all rigged up in
your shore duds?"
"Bound to Bayport, to see Nat Hammond land," was the cheerful
answer. "I ain't had a day off I don't know when, and I thought
I'd take one. Be great doin's over there, they tell me. Elkanah's
goin' to make a speech and there's eighteen teams of folks goin'."
"I know it. I wisht I was goin', too, but I never have no fun.
Have to stay to home and work and slave over them consarned tax
papers. Sometimes I wish there wa'n't no taxes."
"Humph! I've wished that, myself, more'n once. Why don't you go,
if you want to? Climb right aboard here with me. Plenty of room."
"Hey? You mean that? By godfreys mighty! I'd like to."
"Sartin, I mean it. Come ahead."
Mr. Pepper sadly shook his head. "I guess likely I'd better not,"
he sighed. "Laviny might not like to have me leave her."
"Oh, fiddlesticks! she won't mind. I'll take care of you. It's
perfectly safe. There ain't goin' to be no women around. Haw!
He was still laughing at his own joke when through the slats of the
closed blinds shading the Pepper house parlor a shrill voice was
"Go ahead, 'Bishy dear," called Lavinia. "Go ahead and go. A
change of air'll do you good."
Kyan whirled and clutched at the gate.
"HEY?" he shouted in amazement.
"Are you deef? Or is Mr. Ellis laughin' so hard that you can't
hear? What is it that's so funny, Mr. Ellis?"
The light-keeper shut off his laughter by a sudden and rather
"Oh, nothin', nothin', Miss Pepper. "Nice day, ain't it?"
"I guess so. I ain't had time to look at it yet. I have to work.
I can't let my wife do it for me, like some folks, and take 'days
off.' What was it you was laughin' at, Mr. Ellis?"
"Nothin', nothin' at all."
"Hum! They used to tell me there was only one kind of person who
laughed at nothin'. Well, 'Bish Pepper, what are you standin'
there for? If you're goin', come right into the house and change
your clothes this minute."
Kyan obeyed. Shortly he reappeared, clothed like a lily of the
field, one that had long since gone to seed. He clambered up
beside Noah and they drove off.
"Jerushy!" exclaimed the lightkeeper. "This is kind of unexpected,
ain't it? What's got into her to make her so accommodatin'?"
"Godfreys mighty!" was the dazed reply, "I don't know. This as
fast as you can drive? Hurry up, afore she changes her mind."
So it happened that Mr. Pepper was in Bayport with the rest,
awaiting the stage which was bringing Trumet's latest celebrity
"Here she comes!" shouted Ezra Simmons, the postmaster. "Right on
Sure enough! A cloud of dust in the distance, rising on the spring
wind, and the rattle of rapidly turning wheels. The reception
committee prepared for action. Captain Elkanah descended from the
carriage and moved in stately dignity to the front of the post-
"Hum--ha!" he barked, turning to his followers. "Be ready now.
Give him a good cheer, when I say the word. Let it be hearty--
The stage, its four horses at a trot, swung up to the platform.
"Whoa!" roared the driver.
"Now!" ordered Elkanah. "One--two--Hurrah!"
"Hurrah!" shouted the committee, its uninvited guests and the
accompanying crowd of Bayport men and boys which had gathered to
assist in the welcome. "Hurrah!"
"Hooray!" yelled Kyan, a little behind, as usual.
A passenger or two peered from the coach window. The stage driver
ironically touched his cap.
"Thank ye," he said. "Thank ye very much. I've been hopin' for
this for a long time, though I'd about given up expectin' it. I'm
very much obliged. Won't somebody please ask me to make a speech?"
Captain Elkanah frowned his disapproval.
"We are cheering Cap'n Nathaniel Hammond of Trumet," he explained
haughtily. "We are here to meet him and escort him home."
The driver sighed. "You don't say," he said. "And I thought my
merits had been recognized at last. And 'twas all for Cap'n
Hammond? Dear! dear!"
He winked at Simmons, who wanted to laugh, but did not dare.
"Come! come!" said Captain Elkanah. "Where is he? Where's Cap'n
"Well, now, I'll tell ye; I don't know where he is."
"You DON'T? Isn't he with you?"
"No, he ain't. And he didn't come on the train, nuther. He WAS on
it. The conductor told me he see him and set along with him
between stations as fur as Cohasset Narrows. But after that he
never see hide nor hair of him. Oh, that's so! Here's the mail
Captain Elkanah looked at the reception committee and it looked at
him. Here was a most disconcerting setback for all the plans. The
committee, after asking more, and fruitless questions, went into
Captain Zeb stepped beside the stage and put one foot on the wheel.
"Say, Thad," he whispered, "is that all you know? Where did he go
"Can't tell you, cap'n. The conductor says he see him afore they
got to Cohasset Narrows and not after. Naturally, we s'pose he got
off there. Pretty good joke on old Daniels, I call it. Serve him
right, figgerin' to take a passenger away from me. He, he!"
"But you do know more, now don't you? Tell a feller--come! I
don't like Elkanah any better'n you do."
"Well," the driver's voice dropped still lower. "Well," he
whispered, "I did hear this much, though don't you tell none of
them: A chap I know was on the train and he said he see Cap'n Nat
get off the cars at the Cohasset Narrows depot and there was a
woman with him."
"A woman? A WOMAN? What woman?"
"Blessed if I know! And he didn't nuther. So long! Git dap!"
The reception committee and its escort drove slowly back to Trumet.
The Daniels following was disgusted and disappointed. Captain
Elkanah had figured upon keeping Hammond under his own wing until
he was safely deposited at the old tavern. Grace was there and
Elkanah meant that these two should meet before any inkling of
Ellery's story reached Nat's ears. Incidentally, he could drop a
few damaging hints concerning the minister's character. To hurt
Ellery all he could and prejudice Hammond against him--that was the
plan, and now it was frustrated. The captain had not put in an
appearance and no one knew where he was or when he would come home.
Obviously, there was nothing to do except give up the reception and
await further news from the missing man.
Some of those present wished to remain in Bayport until night.
Another train was due in Sandwich and, possibly, Nat might come on
that. They could telegraph and find out whether or not he did
come, and if he did, could send a carriage for him. But this
suggestion was overruled. The reception was off.
The homeward journey had some unpleasant incidents. Several Come-
Outers had driven over. Nat belonged to them, so they felt--he was
the son of their dead founder and leader--and they determined the
Regulars should not have him all to themselves. They had come to
bid him welcome on behalf of the worshipers at the chapel. Now
they took advantage of the general disappointment to make sarcastic
and would-be-humorous remarks loud enough for the majestic occupant
of the decorated carriage to hear.
"Seems to me," said Thoph Black, "that them flags ought to be ha'f
mast. That craft's in distress."
"S-sh-h!" counciled his companion, another Come-Outer. "Don't be
irreverent. Look who's cruisin' under 'em. That's the King of
Trumet. Let's you and me go ahead and fire salutes, Thoph."
Captain Elkanah wrathfully ordered the flags to be removed from the
horses' heads and from the dashboard.
As Noah Ellis and his passenger turned into the lighthouse lane
another vehicle turned out of it.
"Who was that?" queried Kyan. "Looked like one of the livery
stable horses to me."
"'Twa'n't. 'Twas Thankful Payne's and that was her carriage, too.
It's gettin' so dark I couldn't see who was drivin' it, but 'twas a
Kyan seemed to be pondering. "I wonder," he said slowly, "I wonder
if that cousin of hers from Sandwich is here visitin'. That Caleb
Pratt, seems to me his name is."
"Don't know. Why?"
"Nothin', nothin'. I just wondered, that was all. That might
explain why she let me--"
"Nothin'. Good night, Noah. I'm much obliged to you for takin' me
over, even if there wa'n't no reception."
Trumet spent that evening wondering what had become of Nat Hammond.
Captain Zeb Mayo wondered most of all. Yet his wonderment was
accompanied by vague suspicions of the truth. And, at eleven
o'clock, when the village was in bed, a horse and buggy moved down
the Turn-off and stopped before the Hammond gate. A man alighted
from the buggy and walked briskly up to the side door. There he
knocked and then whistled shrilly.
A window overhead was opened.
"Who is it?" asked a feminine voice.
"Don't be frightened, Gracie," replied the man at the door. "It's
me--Nat. I've come home again."
IN WHICH THE MINISTER RECEIVES A LETTER
John Ellery was uneasy. Physically he was very much better, so
much better that he was permitted to sit up a while each day. But
mentally he was disturbed and excited, exactly the condition which
the doctor said he must not be in. Keziah and Grace had gone away
and left him, and he could not understand why.
Mrs. Higgins, Ike's mother, was at the shanty and she did her best
to soothe and quiet him. She was a kind soul and capable, in her
way, but she could not answer his questions satisfactorily.
"Where are they?" he demanded. "Why did they go? Has anything
happened? When are they coming back?"
"I can't tell you just when, Mr. Ellery," replied Mrs. Higgins.
"Grace had to go home for a--a day or so and Keziah had things to
attend to at the parsonage. Don't you fret yourself about them."
"I'm not fretting, but it does seem strange. I could understand
why one should go, perhaps, but not both. Didn't Gra-- Miss Van
Horne tell you why she went?"
"Well, now, Mr. Ellery, don't let's worry about Gracie. She's a
good girl with lots of common sense and--"
"I know that. But that doesn't answer me. Why did she go?"
"Keziah hadn't been to the parsonage sence that day when you was
fust took sick, and I expect likely she felt that she'd ought to--"
"Please, Mrs. Higgins, tell me the truth. I'm not asking about
Mrs. Coffin. Didn't Miss Van Horne tell you her reason for
"No, she didn't."
"But you know the reason? You're keeping something from me. Did
she say when she would come back?"
"No, not exactly, but, of course--"
"I know you're keeping something from me. What has happened?"
"Happened? Land sakes! does anything ever happen in Trumet?"
"I think a good many things have happened lately. And the longer
you keep the truth from me the more I shall suspect."
"Mr. Ellery, you set still in that chair, or, when the doctor
comes, he'll put you to bed. I've got some cookin' to do and I
can't set here gossipin' no longer. You behave yourself and stop
frettin'. I'm skipper here now--er--for a while, anyhow--and
you've got to take orders from me. There! now I cal'late you're
scared, ain't you?"
He did not seem greatly frightened, nor in awe of his new skipper.
Instead, he was evidently preparing to ask more questions. Mrs.
Higgins hurriedly fled to the living room and closed the door
The minister heard her rattling pans and dishes at a great rate.
The noise made him nervous and he wished she might be more quiet.
He moved to the chair nearest the window and looked out over the
dunes and the wide stretch of tumbling blue sea. The surf was
rolling up the shore, the mackerel gulls were swooping and dipping
along the strand, the beach grass was waving in the wind. A
solitary fish boat was beating out past the spar buoy. She was
almost over the spot when the San Jose had first anchored.
The view was a familiar one. He had seen it in all weathers,
during a storm, at morning when the sun was rising, at evening when
the moon came up to tip the watery ridges with frosted silver. He
had liked it, tolerated it, hated it, and then, after she came,
loved it. He had thought it the most beautiful scene in all the
world and one never to be forgotten. The dingy old building, with
its bare wooden walls, had been first a horror, then a prison, and
at last a palace of contentment. With the two women, one a second
mother to him, and the other dearest of all on earth, he could have
lived there forever. But now the old prison feeling was coming
back. He was tired of the view and of the mean little room. He
felt lonely and deserted and despairing.
His nerves were still weak and it was easy, in his childish
condition, to become despondent. He went over the whole situation
and felt more and more sure that his hopes had been false ones and
that he had builded a fool's paradise. After all, he remembered,
she had given him no promise; she had found him ill and delirious
and had brought him there. She had been kind and thoughtful and
gracious, but that she would be to anyone, it was her nature. And
he had been content, weak as he was, to have her near him, where he
would see her and hear her speak. Her mere presence was so
wonderful that he had been satisfied with that and had not asked
for more. And now she had gone. Mrs. Higgins had said "for a day
or two," but that was indefinite, and she had not said she would
return when those two days had passed. He was better now, almost
well. Would she come back to him? After all, conditions in the
village had not changed. He was still pastor of the Regular church
and she was a Come-Outer. The man she had promised to marry was
dead--yes. But the other conditions were the same. And Mrs.
Higgins had refused to tell him the whole truth; he was certain of
that. She had run away when he questioned her.
He rose from the chair and started toward the living room. He
would not be put off again. He would be answered. His hand was on
the latch of the door when that door was opened. Dr. Parker came
The doctor was smiling broadly. His ruddy face was actually
beaming. He held out his hand, seized the minister's, and shook
"Good morning, Mr. Ellery," he said. "It's a glorious day. Yes,
sir, a bully day. Hey? isn't it?"
Ellery's answer was a question.
"Doctor," he said, "why have Mrs. Coffin and--and Miss Van Horne
gone? Has anything happened? I know something has, and you must
tell me what. Don't try to put me off or give me evasive answers.
I want to know why they have gone."
Parker looked at him keenly. "Humph!" he grunted. "I'll have to
get into Mrs. Higgins's wig. I told her not to let you worry, and
you have worried. You're all of a shake."
"Never mind that. I asked you a question."
"I know you did. Now, Mr. Ellery, I'm disappointed in you. I
thought you were a sensible man who would take care of his health,
now that he'd got the most of it back again. I've got news for
you--good news--but I'm not sure that I shall tell it to you."
"Good news! Dr. Parker, if you've got news for me that is good,
for Heaven's sake tell it. I've been imagining everything bad that
could possibly happen. Tell me, quick. My health can stand that."
"Ye-es, yes, I guess it can. They say joy doesn't kill, and that's
one of the few medical proverbs made by unmedical men that are
true. You come with me and sit down in that chair. Yes, you will.
He led his patient back to the chair by the window and forced him
"There!" he said. "Now, Mr. Ellery, if you think you are a man, a
sensible man, who won't go to pieces like a ten-year-old youngster,
I'll--I'll let you sit here for a while."
"You sit still. No, I'm not going to tell you anything. You sit
where you are and maybe the news'll come to you. If you move it
won't. Going to obey orders? Good! I'll see you by and by, Mr.
He walked out of the room. It seemed to Ellery that he sat in that
chair for ten thousand years before the door again opened. And
"Grace!" he cried. "O Grace! you--you've come back."
She was blushing red, her face was radiant with quiet happiness,
but her eyes were moist. She crossed the room, bent over and
kissed him on the forehead.
"Yes, John," she said; "I've come back. Yes, dear, I've come back
Outside the shanty, on the side farthest from the light and its
group of buildings, the doctor and Captain Nat Hammond were talking
with Mrs. Higgins. The latter was wildly excited and bubbling with
"It's splendid!" she exclaimed. "It's almost too fine to believe.
Now we'll keep our minister, won't we?"
"I don't see why not," observed the doctor, with quiet
satisfaction. "Zeb and I had the Daniels crowd licked to a
shoestring and now they'll stay licked. The parish committee is
three to one for Mr. Ellery and the congregation more than that.
Keep him? You bet we'll keep him! And I'll dance at his wedding--
that is, unless he's got religious scruples against it."
Mrs. Higgins turned to Captain Nat.
"It's kind of hard for you, Nat," she said. "But it's awful noble
and self-sacrificin' and everybody'll say so. Of course there
wouldn't be much satisfaction in havin' a wife you knew cared more
for another man. But still it's awful noble of you to give her
The captain looked at the doctor and laughed quietly.
"Don't let my nobility weigh on your mind, Mrs. Higgins," he said.
"I'd made up my mind to do this very thing afore ever I got back to
Trumet. That is, if Gracie was willin'. And when I found she was
not only willin' but joyful, I--well, I decided to offer up the
sacrifice right off."
"You did? You DID? Why, how you talk! I never heard of such a
thing in my born days."
"Nor I neither, not exactly. But there!" with a wink at Parker,
"you see I've been off amongst all them Kanaka women and how do you
know but I've fell in love?"
"Oh, well, I-- What is it, Grace?"
She was standing in the doorway and beckoning to him. Her cheeks
were crimson, the breeze was tossing her hair about her forehead,
and she made a picture that even the practical, unromantic doctor
"By George, Nat!" he muttered, "you've got more courage than I
have. If 'twas my job to give her up to somebody else I'd think
twice, I'll bet."
The captain went to meet her.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Nat," she whispered, "will you come in? He wants to see you."
John Ellery was still seated in the chair by the window, but he no
longer looked like an invalid. There was no worry or care in his
countenance now, merely a wondrous joy and serene happiness.
He held out his hands and the captain shook them heartily.
"Mr. Ellery," he said, "as they used to say at the circus, 'Here we
are again.' And you and I have been doing all kinds of circus
acrobatics since we shook last, hey? I'm glad you're pretty nigh
out of the sick bay--and the doctor says you are."
"Captain," began Ellery. Hammond interrupted him.
"Hold on!" he said. "Belay right there. If you and I are to
cruise in the same family--and that's what I hear is likely to
happen--I cal'late we'll heave overboard the cap'ns and Misters.
My name's 'Nathaniel'--'Nat' for short."
"All right. And mine is 'John.' Captain--Nat, I mean--how can I
ever thank you?"
"Thank me? What do you want to thank me for? I only handed over
somethin' that wasn't mine in the first place and belonged to you
all along. I didn't know it, that was the only trouble."
"But your promise to your father. I feel--"
"You needn't. I told dad that it was just as Grace said. She says
she's got a better man, or words to that effect. And--I don't know
how you feel about such things, John--but I b'lieve there's a
broader outlook up aloft than there is down here and that dad would
want me to do just what I have done. Don't worry about me. I'm
doin' the right thing and I know it. And don't pity me, neither.
I made up my mind not to marry Grace--unless, of course, she was
set on it--months ago. I'm tickled to death to know she's goin' to
have as good a man as you are. She'll tell you so. Grace! Hello!
"Yes. I told her I wanted to talk with you alone, for a few
minutes. Nat, Grace tells me that Aunt Keziah was the one who--"
"She was. She met me at the Cohasset Narrows depot. I was settin'
in the car, lookin' out of the window at the sand and sniffin' the
Cape air. By the everlastin'! there ain't any air or sand like 'em
anywheres else. I feel as if I never wanted to see a palm tree
again as long as I live. I'd swap the whole of the South Pacific
for one Trumet sandhill with a huckleberry bush on it. Well, as I
started to say, I was settin' there lookin' out of the window when
somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up and 'twas her.
"You could have blown me over with a fan. By the jumpin' Moses,
you could! You see, I'd been thinkin' about her--that is, I was--"
He hesitated, turned red, coughed, and went on.
"I was surprised enough to see her, I tell you. Way up there at
the Narrows! I couldn't have said a word, anyway, and she never
gave me a chance. 'Nat,' she says, 'don't talk now. Come with me,
quick, afore the train starts.'
"Still I didn't say anything, nothin' sane anyhow. 'Keziah!' I
managed to stutter. 'KEZIAH!'
"'Come!' says she. 'Hurry! I want you to get off here. I've come
here on purpose to meet you. I must talk with you; it's important.
You can go to Trumet on the next train, to-night. But now I must
talk with you. I MUST. Won't you please come, Nat?'
"Well, I went. The engine bell was beginnin' to ring and we had to
move lively, I tell you. I swung her off the step just as the car
begun to move. After the smoke had faded away around the next bend
I realized that my hat had faded away along with it. Yes, sir!
I'd left it on the seat. Ha! ha! ha!"
He laughed uproariously. Ellery laughed in sympathy.
"However, I wa'n't worryin' about hats, just then. All I wanted to
do was stand still, like a frozen image, and stare at her. You
see, John, I hadn't laid eyes on a friend, one of the real homemade
kind, for more days than I wanted to count; and here was one of
'em, one of the best, passed out to me unexpected and ahead of
time, like a surprise party present. So I just pumped her hand up
and down and stared. I didn't have any exclusive mortgage on the
starin' by no means, for the depot master and a dozen or so loafers
was lookin' at us with their mouths wide open.
"I guess she noticed it, for she says, 'Don't stay here, Nat. Come
in the waitin' room or somewheres where we can talk.'
"So into the waitin' room we went and come to anchor on the settee.
Six or eight of the loafers settled themselves handy to the door,
so's they could peek in occasionally. I remember I told one of
them not to stretch his neck that way 'cause he might never get it
back into shape again and in the gunnin' season that would be
dangerous. 'Some nearsighted feller might take you for a goose,' I
says. Ho! ho!
"And then, John, we had our talk. Seems she left Trumet Wednesday
afternoon. Got the livery stable man to drive her as fur as
Bayport, hired another team there and come on to Sandwich. Stayed
overnight there and took the mornin' train which got to Cohasset
Narrows just ahead of the one I was comin' on. She'd been so
afraid of bein' late, she said. She must see me afore I got to
"Well, she saw me and told me the whole yarn about you and Grace.
She tried to break it to me gently, so I wouldn't feel too bad.
She knew it would be a shock to me, she said. It was a shock, in a
way, but as for feelin' bad, I didn't. I think the world of Grace.
I'd do anything she wanted me to do; but most the way down on the
train--yes, and long afore that--I'd been dreadin' my comin' home
on one account. I dreaded tellin' her that, unless she was real
set on it, she'd better not marry me.
"You see, John, I've thought a lot sence I've been away. Had
consider'ble time to do it in. And the more I thought the less
that promise to dad seemed right. I'd have bet my sou-wester
Gracie never cared for me in the way a girl ought to care for a
chap she's goin' to ship as pilot for the rest of her days. And,
as for me--well, I--I had my reasons for not wantin' to marry her."
He paused again, sighed, started to speak, and then sat silent,
looking out of the window. Ellery laid a hand on his knee.
"Nat," said the minister, "you saved my life once, do you remember
that? I do, if you don't."
"Saved your life? What are you talkin' about? Oh! that time on
the flats? That wasn't savin' your life, 'twas savin' your clothes
from gettin' a wettin'."
"No, it was more than that. And now I guess you've saved it again,
you and Grace between you. Yes, and Aunt Keziah. Bless her! to
think of her going way up there to meet you and help us!"
"Yes. 'Twas like her, wasn't it? She said she knew I'd hear the
yarn when I got to Trumet, but she wanted me to hear it just as it
was, and nobody but she and Grace and you knew the whole truth
about it. So she come. I'm glad she did; not that I shouldn't
have done the same, whoever told me, but--"
"Nat, I want to tell you something. Something that only one other
person knows. Grace doesn't know it yet. Neither does Aunt
Keziah--the whole of it. And if she knew I told you even a part
I'm afraid she would, as she would say, 'skin me alive.' But I owe
her--and you--more than I could repay if I lived a thousand years.
So I'm going to tell and take the consequences.
The captain looked at him. "Well!" he exclaimed. "What's comin'
now? More secrets? Blessed if this ain't gettin' more excitin'
than the South Seas. I used to think excitement in Trumet was
scurcer than cream in poorhouse coffee, but I'll have to change my
"Nat, when--that morning after your father died and after you and
Grace had agreed to--to--"
"To do somethin' neither of us wanted to do? Yes, I know. Go
"That morning Aunt Keziah came home to the parsonage and broke the
news to me. She did it as only she could do such a thing, kindly
and pityingly and--"
"Of course. That's Keziah."
"Yes. Well, as you can imagine, I was almost crazy. I made a fool
of myself, I expect; refused to believe her, behaved disgracefully,
and at last, when I had to believe it, threatened to run away and
leave my work and Trumet forever, like a coward. She made me
"Yes. She showed me it was my duty to face the music. When I
whimpered about my troubles she told me her own story. Then I
learned what trouble was and what pluck was, too. She told me
about her marriage and--excuse me for speaking of what isn't my
business; yet it is mine, in a way--she told me about you."
Captain Hammond did not answer. His good natured face clouded and
he shifted in his chair.
"She told me of you, Nat, all about you--and herself. And she told
me something else, which explains why she felt she must send you
away, why she thought your marriage to Grace would be a good
"I know. She told you that that darn scamp Anse Coffin was alive."
The minister started violently. He gasped in surprise.
"You knew it? You KNEW it?" he stammered.
"I know it now. Have known it for over a year. My findin' it out
was one of the special Providences that's been helpin' along this
last voyage of mine. My second mate was a Hyannis man, name of
Cahoon. One day, on that pesky island, when we was eatin' dinner
together, he says to me, 'Cap'n,' he says, 'you're from Trumet,
ain't you?' I owned up. 'Know anybody named Coffin there?' says
he. I owned up to that, too. 'Well,' he says, 'I met her husband
last trip I was in the Glory of the Wave.' I stared at him. 'Met
his ghost, you mean,' I says. 'He's been dead for years, and a
good thing, too. Fell overboard and, not bein' used to water, it
"But he wouldn't have it so. 'I used to know Anse Coffin in New
Bedford,' he says. 'Knew him well's I know you. And when we was
in port at Havre I dropped in at a gin mill down by the water front
and he come up and touched me on the arm. I thought same as you,
that he was dead, but he wa'n't. He was three sheets in the wind
and a reg'lar dock rat to look at, but 'twas him sure enough. We
had a long talk. He said he was comin' back to Trumet some day.
Had a wife there, he said. I told him, sarcastic, that she'd be
glad to see him. He laughed and said maybe not, but that she knew
he was alive and sent him money when he was hard up. Wanted me to
promise not to tell any Cape folks that I'd seen him, and I ain't
"Well, you can imagine how I felt when Cahoon spun me that yarn.
First I wouldn't b'lieve it and then I did. It explained things,
just as you say, John. I could see now why Keziah gave me my
walkin' papers. I could see how she'd been sacrificin' her life
for that scum."
"Yes. She wouldn't divorce him. She said she had taken him for
better or worse, and must stand by him. I tried to show her she
was wrong, but it was no use. She did say she would never live
with him again."
"I should say not. LIVE with him! By the everlastin'! if he ever
comes within reach of my hands then--there's times when good honest
murder is justifiable and righteous, and it'll be done. It'll be
done, you hear me!"
He looked as if he meant it. Ellery asked another question.
"Did you tell her--Aunt Keziah--when you met her at the Narrows?"
"No. But I shall tell her when I see her again. She shan't spoil
her life--a woman like that! by the Lord! WHAT a woman!--for any
such crazy notion. I swore it when I heard the story and I've
sworn it every day since. That's what settled my mind about Grace.
Keziah Coffin belongs to me. She always has belonged to me, even
though my own pig-headedness lost her in the old days."
"She cares for you, Nat. I know that. She as much as told me so."
"Thank you, John. Thank you. Well, I can wait now. I can wait,
for I've got something sure to wait for. I tell you, Ellery, I
ain't a church-goin' man--not as dad was, anyway--but I truly
believe that this thing is goin' to come out right. God won't let
that cussed rascal live much longer. He won't! I know it. But if
he does, if he lives a thousand years, I'll take her from him."
He was pacing the floor now, his face set like granite. Ellery
rose, his own face beaming. Here was his chance. At last he could
pay to this man and Keziah a part of the debt he owed.
Nat stopped in his stride. "Well!" he exclaimed. "I almost
forgot, after all. Keziah sent a note to you. I've got it in my
pocket. She gave it to me when she left me at Cohasset."
"Left you? Why! didn't she come back with you on the night train?"
"No. That's funny, too, and I don't understand it yet. We was
together all the afternoon. 'I was feelin' so good at seein' her
that I took her under my wing and we cruised all over that town
together. Got dinner at the tavern and she went with me to buy
myself a new hat, and all that. At first she didn't seem to want
to, but then, after I'd coaxed a while, she did. She was lookin'
pretty sad and worn out, when I first met her, I thought; but she
seemed to get over it and we had a fine time. It reminded me of
the days when I used to get home from a voyage and we were
together. Then, when 'twas time for the night train we went down
to the depot. She gave me this note and told me to hand it to you
"'Good-by, Nat,' she says. 'We've had a nice day, haven't we?'
"'We have, for a fact,' I says. 'But what are you sayin' good-by
"'Because I'm not goin' to Trumet with you,' says she. 'I'm goin'
to the city. I've got some business to see to there. Good-by.'
"I was set back, with all my canvas flappin'. I told her I'd go to
Boston with her and we'd come home to Trumet together to-morrow,
that's to-day. But she said no. I must come here and ease your
mind and Grace's. I must do it. So at last I agreed to, sayin'
I'd see her in a little while. She went on the up train and I took
the down one. Hired a team in Sandwich and another in Bayport and
got to the tavern about eleven. That's the yarn. And here's your
note. Maybe it tells where she's gone and why."
The minister took the note and tore open the envelope. Within was
a single sheet of paper. He read a few lines, stopped, and uttered
"What's the matter?" asked the captain.
Ellery did not answer. He read the note through and then, without
a word, handed it to his friend.
The note was as follows:
"I am going away, as I told you I would if he came. He is coming.
Tuesday I got a letter from him. It was written at Kingston,
Jamaica, almost three months ago. I can't think why I haven't got
it sooner, but suppose it was given to some one to mail and
forgotten. In it he said he was tired of going to sea and was
coming home to me. I had money, he said, and we could get along.
He had shipped aboard a brig bound for Savannah, and from there he
was going to try for a berth on a Boston-bound vessel. So I am
going away and not coming back. I could not stand the disgrace and
I could not see him. You and Grace won't need me any more now.
Don't worry about me. I can always earn a living while I have my
strength. Please don't worry. If he comes tell him I have gone
you do not know where. That will be true, for you don't. I hope
you will be very happy. I do hope so. Oh, John, you don't know
how I hate to do this, but I must. Don't tell Nat. He would do
something terrible to him if he came, and Nat knew. Just say I
have been called away and may be back some time. Perhaps I may.
Love to you all. Good-by.
The captain stared at the note. Then he threw it to the floor and
started for the door. The minister sprang from his chair and
called to him.
"Nat," he cried. "Nat! Stop! where are you going?"
"Goin'?" he growled. "Goin'? I'm goin' to find her, first of all.
Then I'm comin' back to wait for him."
"But you won't have to wait. He'll never come. He's dead."
"Dead? DEAD? By the everlastin'! this has been too much for you,
I ought to have known it. I'll send the doctor here right off. I
can't stay myself. I've got to go. But--"
"Listen! listen to me! Ansel Coffin is dead, I tell you. I know
it. I know all about it. That was what I wanted to see you about.
Did Keziah tell you of the San Jose and the sailor who died of
smallpox in this very building? In that room there?"
"Yes. John, you--"
"I'm not raving. It's the truth. That sailor was Ansel Coffin. I